[A] CARLISLE man who committed a £284,000 VAT and benefit fraud has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Keiran Farrer filed 34 monthly VAT returns in which he claimed to have paid invoices for £2 million worth of supplies. Farrer, 39, had registered a vehicle hire and leasing company – but this was said to have “barely traded”.
Farrer reclaimed £260,000 from the taxman and was paid £243,000. But a probe revealed that his returns were bogus.
Carlisle Crown Court also heard Farrer made false statements to the Department for Work and Pensions which allowed him to rake in disability living allowance totalling £41,000. He claimed to suffer from “severe” mental health and mobility difficulties which meant he regularly needed to use a wheelchair and also specialist transport.
But investigators’ video footage showed him walking unaided on several occasions, and pushing a supermarket trolley.
An investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) found Farrer, of Whinsmoor Drive, Carlisle, set up a sham business and stole VAT, which he spent on acquiring his private pilot’s licence.
The 39-year-old also told DWP he suffered from mental health problems and had difficulty walking more than 1.5 metres. In reality he was enjoying a life of leisure spending money on flying lessons and ten pin bowling.
Farrer, who was a director of The Solway Aviation Society, already had 22 criminal convictions and was serving a suspended prison sentence at the time he was defrauding HMRC and DWP.
Paul Maybury, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Farrer’s level of dishonesty is truly shocking and inexcusable. He thought theft and fraud was an acceptable way of life despite his numerous convictions. Now his incessant deceit has landed him behind bars.
“We will continue to work with other law enforcement partners, where appropriate, to pursue criminals like Farrer who think they can steal money that should be used to fund our public services. If you know of anyone committing VAT fraud you can report them by calling our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Farrer told HMRC he’d set up a car hire and leasing business and spent more than £2m on vehicles and business supplies for the company. He submitted monthly VAT returns for three years claiming £260,364 in repayments.
In reality, the business was a sham and checks revealed no vehicles were ever purchased and Farrer pocketed the VAT repayments, which he was not entitled to.
At the same time Farrer told DWP he had severe difficulty walking, had fits, dizzy spells and blackouts, and often needed to use a wheelchair or a Motability car. He received £41,095 in disability living allowance between 2010 and 2016.
But DWP discovered he spent more than £50,000 on flying lessons.
He was arrested by DWP for benefit fraud in 2016 and investigators obtained bank records, which exposed his fraudulent VAT repayments. The case was then jointly investigated with HMRC.
Farrer admitted VAT and benefits fraud at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court on 7 December 2017 and was sentenced to four years and six months in prison at Carlisle Crown Court today, 16 February 2018, by His Honour Judge Peter Hughes QC.