A fake North Yorkshire horse trader who attempted to avoid an investigation into a £280,000 tax fraud by lying about having cancer has been jailed following an HMRC investigation
Christopher Stone, from Harrogate, claimed to have spent £1.4m on horses, riding equipment and vet bills in a bid to generate VAT repayments for Otley-based SS Equestrian.
But the business was a sham, and when HMRC asked for a meeting to discuss his tax affairs, Stone said he was going to the US for terminal cancer treatment, and so would be unavailable for two months. However, enquires with the US embassy proved he had not travelled to the US.
The three-year fraud was uncovered when checks with Stone’s alleged suppliers revealed invoices used to support the VAT refund claims were fake. Bank statements provided to HMRC were doctored to include bogus sales and purchases.
Investigators concluded SS Equestrian had not engaged in any legitimate trade and was established purely for the purposes of a VAT fraud, totalling £272,288 between 2011 and 2014. A further claim for £8,763 was withheld.
Stone was arrested at his then-home in Uxbridge, West London, in October 2015, and refused to answer any questions relating to the fraud. He pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court and was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
Paul Barton, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: ‘This was a despicable attempt to avoid justice by a crook desperate to save his own skin. Stone tried to manipulate a system that exists for the benefit of legitimate and hardworking businesses, covering his tracks with a shameful lie.’