Devon market trader jailed for £900k VAT fraud

A market trader from Devon has been jailed for stealing more than £900,000 in VAT repayments to fund a gambling addiction

Terence Sickelmore of Honiton submitted dozens of fake VAT returns for his business to fraudulently claim repayments of £913,729, an HMRC investigation found.

Sickelmore was a co-owner of Dairy World, a dairy products business in Exmouth Market. From October 2010 to August 2018, he used the company accounts to create 95 bogus VAT returns.

He was caught when HMRC reviewed his VAT returns and identified irregularities and he immediately admitted to submitting the bogus claims to fund his gambling addiction. He is no longer involved with Dairy World.

Sickelmore admitted VAT fraud at Exeter Magistrates Court on 30 July 2019. He was sentenced to three years in prison at Exeter Crown Court on 27 August 2019.

He was charged with fraudulent evasion of VAT by submitting false VAT returns over an eight-year period for the purpose of obtaining VAT repayments and evading VAT liability, contrary to Section 72(1) of the Value Added Tax Act (1994).

Zoe Ellerbeck, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: ‘Sickelmore abused his position as a business owner to steal huge amounts of money that should have been used to fund public services.

‘He chose to fund his gambling by stealing from UK taxpayers. The money he stole is equivalent to the wages of 30 newly qualified paramedics for a whole year.

‘We want to level the playing field for all businesses to operate fairly and we will pursue those who are stealing public money. Tax fraud is a serious crime and I ask anyone with information about those who may be involved to report it online, or call the fraud hotline on 0800 788 887.’

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