A lying horse dealer who pretended to have terminal cancer to avoid a £280,000 tax fraud investigation has been jailed.
Christopher John Stone (pictured), 35, of Albany Avenue in Harrogate, claimed to have spent £1.4million on horses, riding equipment and vet bills to generate VAT repayments for Otley-based SS Equestrian. However, the business was a sham.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) asked for a meeting to discuss Stone’s tax affairs, but he claimed to be travelling to the US for terminal cancer treatment and would not be available for two months.
His story was unravelled when HMRC checked with the US embassy and discovered he had not travelled to the States.
“This was a despicable attempt to avoid justice by a crook desperate to save his own skin,” said Paul Barton, HMRC’s assistant director of the fraud investigation service.
“Stone tried to manipulate a system that exists for the benefit of legitimate and hardworking businesses, covering his tracks with a shameful lie.
“HMRC will continue to pursue those criminals who think stealing from the public is a legitimate way to do business.”
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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 also doctored to include bogus sales and purchases.
Investigators concluded SS Equestrian had not been involved in any legitimate trade and was set up purely to steal VAT, totalling £272,288.62 between 2011 and 2014. A further claim for £8,763.11 was withheld.
The crook was arrested at his then home in Uxbridge, west London, in October 2015.
He appeared at Isleworth Crown Court on 3 March this year, where he admitted cheating the public revenue.
Stone was sentenced to 33 months in prison at the same court yesterday (12 April) by His Honour Judge Ferris.
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