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Results of Merseyside major tax credit fraud investigation

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HM Revenue and Customs -Tax Authorities

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Issued 20 April 2009

Five people across Merseyside have today been sentenced in relation to tax credit fraud totalling over 150,000.

The court action follows an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) into a number of unrelated false claims involving understated household income, undeclared marriage or partnership status, falsified working hours or income and inflated childcare costs.

His Honour Judge Holloway QC, presiding over all the sentencing hearings today said: I have sentenced a number of similar cases this week very few that had such levels of high dishonesty."

Nick Shaw, HMRC Criminal Investigations, commented:

"Tax credit fraud is theft of money from the public purse and those falsely claiming tax credits face prosecution as in these cases. We have robust and effective teams in place to investigate and to ensure this illegal activity is detected. Those involved in this form of crime are exploiting the tax credit system for purely personal gain."

He added: "We recognise it is only a minority that are exploiting the system but would encourage anyone with information relating to tax credit fraud to call the Benefits Anti Fraud Helpline on 0800 854 440 in total confidence."

Eight women in total were charged with fraudulently claiming Tax Credits contrary to the Tax Credit Act 2002 following a series of arrests across Merseyside in May 2008 and related investigations over the following months. Five were sentenced today including:

* Laine Campbell aged 26 from Anfield, Liverpool was in fact living with her partner during the majority of her claims for tax credits and had falsified her claims over a five-year period. Campbell should have declared her full household income throughout the claim periods. Campbell fraudulently claimed over 30,642 in tax credits by stating she lived alone. Campbell was sentenced to six months in jail for each count of fraud (four in total) and the sentences are to run concurrently.

* Katharine Rachel Gershman aged 28 of Prenton, Wirral was living with her partner (later her husband) during her claims for tax credits and had falsified claims over a five-year period. Gershman should have declared her full household income throughout the claim periods when in fact she fraudulently claimed 26,274 in tax credits by claiming she lived alone. Gershman was sentenced to six months in jail for each count of fraud (four in total) and the sentences are to run concurrently.

* Kerry Lavery, aged 29, of Birkenhead, Wirral was living with her partner prior to and partly during her claims for tax credits and had falsified her household income for the claims over a five-year period. Lavery should have declared her full household income throughout the claim period but fraudulently claimed over 26,036 by saying she lived alone and had separated from her partner. Lavery was sentenced to six months in jail for each count of fraud (four in total) and the sentences are to run concurrently.

* Julie Mead aged 43 of Liverpool was living with her husband prior to and during the claims for tax credits and had falsified her claims over a four-year period. Mead should have declared her full household income throughout the claim periods but fraudulently claimed over 20,426 by claiming to live alone. Mead was sentenced to six months custodial suspended for two years and must serve 150 hours of unpaid work for the community.

* Tracey Swindlehurst aged 40 of Birkenhead, Wirral was living with her husband prior to and during her claims for tax credits and had falsified her claims over a six-year period. Swindlehurst should have declared her full household income throughout the claim periods but fraudulently claimed 21,776 by claiming she lived alone. Swindlehurst was sentenced to six months custodial suspended for two years and must serve 150 hours of unpaid work for the community.

One woman has already been sentenced - a 41-year old midwife from Whiston in December 2008 after admitting her guilt in court in October. She has paid back 30,519 and 500 court costs. Two women, one from Greasby, Wirral and one from Speke, will appear again in court next month. Further investigations into other suspected tax credit fraudsters in Merseyside are ongoing. All the five women sentenced today also face a confiscation hearing in July 2009.

Tax Credits are based on total household income and are designed to help lower income families and individuals. All Tax Credit claims are subject to routine checks and claims are regularly monitored for errors or fraudulent activity and flagged to investigators as appropriate as in these cases.

This case was prosecuted by the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office.

Note

1. If people suspect someone of a similar fraud they can report it to the HM Revenue & Customs hotline 0800 59 5000 and if they require assistance with their own tax credits they can ring the Tax Credit Helpline 0845 300 3900 or visit the HMRC website at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk for more information.

2. The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) was created by the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005. An independent prosecuting authority, RCPO reports directly to the Attorney General and is responsible for prosecuting cases for HMRC and SOCA. It prosecutes some of the largest drug and fraud cases in the UK. For further information about RCPO, visit http://www.rcpo.gov.uk.

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office Team
Website http://www.hmrc.gov.uk


About the Author

Crown Copyright 2009.

A licence is need to reproduce this article and has been republished for educational / informational purposes only. Article reproduced by permission of HM Revenue & Customs under the terms of a Click-Use Licence. Tax briefs are updated regularly and may be out of date at time of reading.



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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-04-22 01:27:11 in Tax Articles

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