A phoney Yorkshire horse trader who tried to avoid a probe into a £280,000 tax fraud by lying about having cancer has been jailed.
Christopher John Stone, 35, of Harrogate, claimed to have spent £1.4m on horses, riding equipment and vet bills in a bid to generate value-added tax (VAT) repayments for Otley-based SS Equestrian.
But the business was a sham, and when Britain’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) service asked for a meeting to discuss his tax affairs, Stone said he was travelling to the United States for terminal cancer treatment – and wouldn’t be available for two months.
Meanwhile, inquiries with the US embassy proved the conman had not travelled to America.
Paul Barton, assistant director of fraud investigations with Revenue and Customs, 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.”
He said the service would continue to pursue those who thought stealing from the public was a legitimate way to do business.
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 to steal VAT, totalling £272,288.62 between 2011 and 2014. A further claim for £8,763.11 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 on March 3 this year at Isleworth Crown Court to cheating the public revenue. He was sentenced on April 12 to 33 months in prison by Judge Ferris.