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Oxenhope VAT fraudster is put behind bars
10:00am Thursday 5th September 2013 in News
An Oxenhope businesswoman who holidayed in Greece and The Canary Islands on the proceeds of a £144,000 VAT fraud has been jailed for 15 months.
Katherine Devlin put her hands to her face as she was led to the cells at Bradford Crown Court on Friday.
Devlin, 28, of Wadsworth, in Oxenhope, enjoyed up to two sunshine breaks a year while skimming off the money from the Inland Revenue.
She pleaded guilty to tax evasion, fraud and money laundering while she was the director of three Halifax-based companies – Strictly Gifted, Strictly Gifted Business Supplies and Strictly Gifted Recruitment.
Prosecutor, Kathryn Walsh, said she faked invoices and doctored others to dishonestly reclaim VAT.
One invoice for £100, with no VAT, was altered to £5,000 with £1,000 VAT, and a new date put on it.
Miss Walsh said Devlin was paid £144,000 incorrectly between December 2009 and May 2012.
In November last year, an officer from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs checked all the invoices and uncovered the fraud.
Devlin was arrested on December 5 and made no comment to police.
Her company address was searched and officers found a handwritten note to her father saying she tried to run the businesses legitimately but there was no benefit in doing so.
Payments from the fraud went into Devlin’s personal bank account and to her partner and his mother.
The court heard Devlin took up to two holidays a year, including to Greece and the Canary Islands.
Her first business, Strictly Gifted, was set up honestly and she took out loans from friends and family to pay her employees, as well as submitting fraudulent VAT claims.
“She wanted to show people she could be a success but it was beyond her,” her solicitor advocate, Adam Walker, said.
He handed a sheaf of character references, praising Devlin, to Judge Peter Benson. He said she held a fundraising day for a hospice in November last year.
Judge Benson told Devlin she was of previous good character and had many positive qualities as a citizen. But she turned to dishonesty when her company began to fail.
“You resorted to calculated fraud to prop up the business and fund your lifestyle, including holidays,” the judge said.