Umbrella payroll cheats jailed for pocketing £45m

Grant Prior 2 weeks ago
Share

A family of fraudsters who pocketed more than £45m in the largest payroll fraud of its kind in the UK have been jailed for a total of 27-and-a-half years.

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 07.15.07

Essex Police is now looking to recover as much of the cash as possible from Geoffrey, Joshua and Andrew Copp.

Geoffrey, 55, his son Joshua, 24, and brother Andrew, 51, ran Central Payroll Specialists (CPS), which was later rebranded as Quality Premier Services (QPS), based in Croxley Heath near Rickmansworth.

These were umbrella payroll companies used by recruitment agencies to manage the wages of thousands of temporary workers across industries like construction.

Over the course of three years, the Copps did not pass the VAT they received from the recruitment agencies to HM Revenue and Customs.

They split the cash to fund lavish lifestyles including luxury cars, watches and property.

The scam came to light after information was passed to Essex Police, resulting in an investigation led by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, with the assistance of HMRC’s Criminal Taxes Unit.

Initial enquiries focused on Joshua and police found that during 2013-2014, £2.4m was transferred to his personal bank accounts from CPS, and a further £9.2m was transferred to him from CPS and QPS during 2014-2015.

Further investigations by Essex Police and HMRC found the two companies paid just under £4m in VAT between September 2012 and September 2015.

HMRC investigators estimated there was just under £46million in unpaid VAT.

Tax records also showed that Geoffrey and Joshua paid no income tax between 2009 and 2015, while Andrew had paid £15,930.

Warrants were executed at their homes in May and September 2015.

In March 2016 they were each charged with conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and conspiring to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property.

They stood trial at Wood Green Crown Court on April 4 and were found guilty by a jury last week.

The court heard Geoffrey set up the businesses, later taking back seat in the day to management and passing over that responsibility to Andrew.

Joshua, who previously had very little work experience, also played a substantial role in the businesses.

They spent money on houses, expensive cars, jewellery, private jet travel and gambling.

Geoffrey Copp’s home in Stanmore, bought for £1.3million in January 2014

Geoffrey Copp’s home in Stanmore, bought for £1.3million in January 2014

The court heard Geoffrey Copp bought four homes, one in Spain and three in England, mortgage free between 2014 and 2015. Their combined value is £3m.

He spent nearly £300,000 on private jet flights to Spain between July 2014 and January 2015 and owned several racehorses.

Picture on Joshua Copp’s Instagram account of himself and luxury cars. The Lamborghini is valued at £165,000.

Picture on Joshua Copp’s Instagram account of himself and luxury cars. The Lamborghini is valued at £165,000.

When police executed warrants at Joshua’s home in Olivers Lane, Stotfold, in May 2015, they found several cars worth £1m overall registered in his name and ten watches with a combined value of about £400,000.

From February 2014, Andrew Copp bought four homes for £1,395,000 and six cars, including two Lamborghinis and a Bentley Continental.

Speaking after the hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Josie Hayes, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “This was a sophisticated scam yet all three defendants consistently denied any knowledge that their companies owned such an enormous amount of VAT.

“They saw this money as a windfall to spend as they wished.

“But this was not a victimless crime.

“The vast sums of cash they spent so freely on their extravagant lifestyles should have gone into paying for public services such as health, welfare and law and order.

“All three were well aware of what they were doing and played a substantial role in this conspiracy.

“Geoffrey set up the payroll companies and the mechanism of the fraud.

“Andrew became the director of QPS during the time when most of the VAT was stolen.

“And Joshua played an administrative role and shared out the proceeds.

“Now they will all pay for their crimes with time behind bars.

“Essex Police will also begin the process of applying for confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the cash that should rightfully have gone into the public purse, ensuring they do not benefit from their criminality.

“We have already obtained a restraint order for property and money valued at £22million, which ‘freezes’ property that may be liable to confiscation following a trial and the making of a confiscation order.

“I would like to thank the witnesses who provided evidence during the investigation and trial, and staff at HMRC’s Criminal Taxes Unit, with whom we have worked with closely on this complex case.”

QPS has been placed into liquidation as a result of a HMRC winding up petition. CPS was also liquidated.

HMRC’s Criminal Taxes Unit is working closely with the liquidators in order to maximise recoveries for creditors.

Latest news

South African construction giant buys into Byrne Group

Johannesburg-listed construction giant Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon eyes UK opportunity
38 mins ago

Crewe crane collapse victim was teenager on first job

Police identify both victims after crane came down while being erected
2 days ago

Rotherham unveils new town centre revamp plan

Ambitious regeneration plan focused on Forge Island area of the town
1 hour ago

Premier Modular bags £225m offsite housing deal

Central Housing Investment Consortium picks Premier for volumetric housing
3 hours ago

Singapore developer gets green light for £130m London flats

Final stage of Wandsworth's Riverside Quarter to start next year
3 hours ago

Every tower block checked so far fails fire tests

Cladding on 60 high-rise blocks in 25 local authorities fails combustibility tests
1 day ago

Willmott Dixon wins Old Admirality Building refurb

Contractor takes-on job originally earmarked for BAM
7 hours ago

Michelmersh buys Yorkshire brick maker for £31m

Deal for Carlton Main Brickworks will boost output to 100m units a year
6 hours ago

Celotex to stop supply of Grenfell insulation to towers

Insulation giant halts supply for rainscreen cladding systems to high-rise buildings
3 days ago

Crane drops 500 scaffold fittings on worker

Court hears how victim suffered three fractures and cuts to her head
7 hours ago

Council chief sounds warning over Battersea build costs

Wandsworth planning chairman claims project is facing "significant challenges"
3 days ago

Sisk seals £190m Quintain Wembley Park resi block

Builder also in talks about a further 500 homes next to Canada Court plot
6 hours ago

Police consider manslaughter charges after Grenfell fire

Detectives "seizing relevant material from a number of organisations"
3 days ago

Over 200 Birmingham tower blocks to get sprinklers

Council could delay its building projects to fund £31m retrofit programme
3 days ago

First tests reveal combustible cladding on 11 towers

Up to 600 towers need to be checked
4 days ago

Safety alarm raised over fall in HSE construction visits

Surprise site visits by inspectors drop by 14%
3 days ago

Plans for 35-storey Manchester student tower

Unite unveils plan for 600-bed student block near Oxford Road station
3 days ago

London’s Camden Council to strip cladding from five towers

Chalcots Estate project was delivered by Grenfell contractors Rydon and Harley Facades
4 days ago

Contractors urged to stop asking site chefs for skills cards

Firms urged to use common sense over allowing non-construction staff on sites
3 days ago

Planning thumbs up for £150m Lincoln shopping centre

St Marks shopping centre owner Standard Life plans to start work in 2020
3 days ago

Two killed in crane collapse on Crewe construction site

Tower crane comes down on Seddon site
5 days ago

Berkeley cleared to fast-track scheme for Grenfell survivors

Homes and Communities Agency strike deal to buy Kensington Row luxury apartment scheme
5 days ago

Buckingham Group targets £500m revenue in 2018

Profits soar as firm eyes swelling pipeline of stadium projects.
5 days ago

Five more Edinburgh schools found with building defects

Investigation reveals more schools in Edinburgh suffered wall-tie defects
4 days ago

Galliford/Lagan jv wins £135m RAF Marham hangar

New hangar will house a dozen F-35B vertical take-off jets
5 days ago

CIOB sets up commission to probe control of build quality

Paul Nash to lead urgent review into behaviour that undermines quality in construction
5 days ago

Barratt names new finance boss

Barratt promotes Jessica White to top financial executive
4 days ago

Opinion: Construction must say never again to another Grenfell

The industry must break with its lowest cost culture
5 days ago

Profits soar at Berkeley despite housing market uncertainty

Berkeley worried about Brexit impact on skills as half its site labour comes from EU
5 days ago

Hewden sell-off raises £120m but trade creditors get pennies

More than £41m was owed to plant hire giant's trade creditors
5 days ago

Contractor services