A businessman has been jailed after he set up phoney businesses to steal more than £200,000 in VAT.
Edward Marsh ran a legitimate eco-boiler fitting company called Paid 2 Heat Ltd but set up three fake businesses to steal VAT, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
The 52-year-old submitted 52 monthly VAT returns for his fake companies between December 2015 and May 2017 to claim £208,995 in repayments he was not entitled to.
HMRC officers went to his former home and business premises in Castle Eden in July 2017 for a standard VAT assurance visit.
During the visit he admitted having only one genuine business and the other companies - Energi 4 Ever Ltd, Paid 2 Power Ltd and Paid 2 Go Green Ltd - never traded.
Marsh said he stole VAT to fund a new business.
Cheryl Burr, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Marsh was wrong to think he could get away with stealing taxpayers’ money. This is money which should be used to fund our vital public services and not his new business venture. He pocketed enough money to pay the salaries for ten new police officers for a year
“HMRC will not tolerate VAT fraud and we will continue to pursue criminals like Marsh who think stealing from the public purse is an acceptable way to do business. I encourage anyone with information on this type of fraud to report it to HMRC online, or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Marsh, now of Eighth Row, Ashington, admitted VAT fraud at Durham Crown Court.
He was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from being a company director for five years at the same court on September 28.
Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at https://www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business .