David Valentine, 56, admitted six offences of fraud and money laundering after a joint investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and British Transport Police, who had found him with a bank card in another person’s name.
HMRC officers discovered that Valentine had used the stolen identity to register the company, Dunthwaite Estate Ltd. However, when officers visited the premises, there was no distillery or preserves making equipment - the company had been set up solely to make fraudulent VAT repayment claims.
The stolen VAT was used to fund his other business, JR Gaunt & Son (London) Ltd, which traded in horn buttons. A search of this business address uncovered fake invoices that Valentine had sent between the companies for alleged building works that hadn’t taken place. They also discovered unpaid invoices, which he had fraudulently used to reclaim VAT.
Stuart Taylor, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Valentine knew what he was doing was wrong; and by depriving public services of vital funding, financially he had an unfair advantage over his honest competitors. HMRC is levelling the playing field for honest businesses and making sure that crime doesn’t pay.
“It was only a matter of time before Valentine’s lies unravelled. We will continue to work with our partner agencies to stop this type of crime and to ensure money is directed as it should be and not into the pocket of criminals. Tax fraud is not a victimless crime, it affects us all and I would ask anyone with information about people who may be involved to contact our 24 hour Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
British Transport Police Financial Investigator, Detective Sergeant Ian Burditt, said:
“Valentine is a career con man who, had he not been arrested in connection with a totally different offence, might still be out committing crime today. Only when officers found him with bank cards belonging to a person of a different name was his web of deceit unravelled and we discovered the extent of these offences. We are pleased with the sentence handed to him.”
Valentine fraudulently claimed £109,619.27 between August 2012 and September 2014. He pleaded guilty at St Albans Crown Court on 4 July 2016 and was sentenced to 31 months imprisonment at the same court yesterday.
At sentencing His Honour Judge Plumstead said that the fraud was “calculated, determined and passionate.”
Confiscation proceedings to recover the proceeds of his crime will now follow.