Woman jailed for VAT fraud

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A West Yorkshire woman, who funded a celebrity lifestyle with the proceeds of a £144,000 VAT fraud, has been jailed after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs.

Katherine Louise Devlin, 28, from Oxenhope, travelled the world and enjoyed lavish shopping sprees and beauty treatments after creating fake invoices to reclaim VAT she wasn’t entitled to.

She was sentenced today (Fri) at Bradford Crown Court to 15 months in jail for two counts of VAT fraud and one of money laundering.

Devlin, who owned Strictly Gifted Limited, Strictly Gifted Recruitment Limited and Strictly Gifted Business Supplies Limited, made false VAT repayment claims by creating fake invoices and altering paperwork.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Devlin used her businesses to steal money by making fraudulent claims for VAT repayments, which she then had paid into her personal bank account.

“She used the cash to fund a lifestyle where she could enjoy luxury breaks, extravagant beauty treatments and almost daily shopping sprees, buying clothing and jewellery, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

“We hope that this case serves as a warning to others that VAT fraud and the laundering of criminal profit is an extremely serious offence.

“HMRC is committed to catching those businesses and individuals who make false claims.”

HMRC began to investigate Devlin’s VAT repayments claims after £144,865 was paid out and further claims totalling £43,228 were stopped prior to payment.

Officers found that Devlin had been altering invoices from companies with whom she had done business, inflating the VAT amounts in order to submit higher repayment claims.

In some cases, she had simply made up invoices as many of the companies had never heard of Devlin or her businesses.

Devlin was arrested in December 2012.

During a search of her home, HMRC officers found a handwritten letter to a relative, which said that she had tried to run a legitimate business but had found no benefit in it.

She was later charged with two counts of VAT fraud and one count of Money Laundering and pleaded guilty at Bradford Crown Court.

In sentencing Devlin, Judge Peter Benson said: “This was a serious and calculated crime that could not be overlooked.

Anyone who has information about VAT fraud can report it by calling the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.