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Construction boss jailed for £2m tax fraud

Ben Richardson, 47, from Deal, Kent, pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court to multiple tax evasion offences and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

Richardson ran four companies, all involved in the sale of modular buildings to construction sites between October 2010 and July 2019.

His wife, Dawn Richardson, 47, was involved in all four companies and accepted her role in the criminal activity. She was sentenced to 17 months, suspended for 18 months.

Ben Richardson was director of SBR UK. He also ran Merrydale Enterprise Ltd, and made it pay VAT on invoices for work it had been subcontracted to carry out by SBR UK.

He did this despite SBR UK not being registered for VAT at the time. He was able to carry out the scam by illegally using a VAT registration number for another business he owned at the time – one which he knew had been de-registered for VAT.

As director of Merrydale, Richardson reclaimed a total of £256,078.40 from HMRC for the VAT he had paid SBR UK knowing he was not entitled to do so.

SBR UK did not account for any VAT that it charged Merrydale or any of its other customers. This totalled £1,212,955.32.

Another company Richardson operated, SBR Modular, took over SBR UK’s contracts when it became insolvent in July 2015. While director of the new company, Richardson continued his fraudulent evasion of VAT to the sum of £91,139.49. This company itself became insolvent in July 2016.

Richardson and an associate, Michael Brown, 59, set up a fourth company called Ilex Industries from a cottage in Deal, Kent, which was purchased with a deposit of £219,123 funded entirely by his tax evasion at SBR UK.

This company followed the same criminal pattern as the other companies – charging VAT to customers and not submitting monthly returns to HMRC, running up a total of £239,723 between May 2016 and April 2019. Brown was director in name only, as Richardson maintained control.

Whilst running Ilex Industries, Richardson and Brown also oversaw the evasion of income tax and National Insurance contributions on payments to themselves as employees, under the PAYE scheme, totalling £117,730 and £88,545, respectively.

They also failed to disclose to HMRC deductions from payments to subcontractors under the Construction Industry Scheme, totalling £171,074.97.

Gurminder Sanghera, Legal Manager at the CPS, said: “Ben Richardson did all he could to evade paying his fair share to society through his control of these companies. He was determined to make as much money as he could to pay off his spiralling debts and fund his lifestyle and evaded paying more than £2m in tax.”

Pete Vivian, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Ben Richardson stole from the taxpayer to fund a lifestyle that was out of his reach. He evaded taxes, ran up debts and closed businesses with an expectation that the honest, tax paying majority would pick up the tab.

“He’s started a lengthy prison sentence and we continue to work with CPS colleagues to recover his ill-gotten gains. All four convictions are testament to the dedication of our investigators who launched three linked investigations that ultimately brought these fraudsters to justice.”

Ben Richardson and his sister Vickie Amas, 47, were also both convicted of concealing criminal property, for the laundering of funds from SBR UK to pay the deposit on Ilex Cottage. Amas was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

Brown was sentenced, at a separate hearing at Maidstone Crown Court, to 20 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, for his role in Ilex’s fraudulent activity.