Construction payroll fraudster gets 17 years in jail

Grant Prior 12 years ago
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A construction fraudster who conned tax officials out of £34m with a payroll scam has been jailed for 17 years.

Thomas Scragg, from Hockley Heath, was jailed for a total of 17 years for three separate fraud convictions following investigations into his business called Moya Payroll.

The extent of Scragg’s racket has remained a secret until now as cases against his two henchmen – Carl and Anthony Johnson from Wolverhampton – progressed through court.

But the brothers’ convictions today for money laundering Scragg’s ill-gotten gains mean reporting restrictions have now been lifted on the HMRC investigation.

Moya Payroll managed staff wages of construction companies and was used as a vehicle to steal over £26m in tax over a five year period between 2002 and 2007.

Scragg’s co-defendant, Paul Phillips from Ashbourne, Derbyshire, was jailed for nine years.

A further investigation by West Midlands Police uncovered a further £8m of stolen PAYE tax in a 10-month period from April 2007 to February 2008.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how Carl and Anthony Johnson lived extravagant lifestyles using money they received from Scragg in return for their “protection services”.

In total he paid the brothers – who had a string of convictions for violence and witness intimidation – around £2.4m.

All three men spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on luxury hotels in London and regularly ran up massive bills in local restaurants.

The notorious Johnson brothers kitted out their homes with state-of-the art security equipment; Carl had bulletproof glass put in his Bushbury Road home, while Anthony rebuilt his house on Sandy Lane, installing a cinema room, stables and dog kennels.

They drove around in expensive cars including a Lamborghini Murcielago, Bentley Continental, Porsche Cayenne and Ferrari Spider.

Both brothers claimed their wealth came from running a legitimate security business – called Unit 11 – but the company paid nothing in tax to HMRC.

During the investigation all their accounts were frozen and managed by the police which had a dramatic impact on their lifestyles.

Restrictions were placed on their financial transactions and their assets, including properties worth more than £2m, are now the subject of confiscation proceedings.

The investigations into Scragg’s empire also led to the convictions of co-conspirators who helped him carry out the fraud.

The court heard how the men – some of them industry accredited accountants and auditors – helped Scragg execute the scam and launder his cash in such a way as not to raise the suspicion of the authorities.

The audacity of the fraud intensified after Scragg’s arrest when three of his associates tried to deceive auditors who were appointed by the court to restrict his finances.

Mark Harris, Mark Kenny and Sital Sheamar were all charged with Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice and Money Laundering after they illegally tried to release the equity in Scragg’s fraudulent company.

All three were jailed in March this year following an investigation by the Regional Asset Recovery Team.

Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Edwards from West Midlands Police said: “This was an incredibly long and complex investigation using the combined specialist skills of officers from West Midlands Police, HMRC investigators, the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART) and CPS lawyers, who have worked extremely hard throughout the inquiry.

“This was fraud and money laundering on a massive scale; it deprived the public purse of millions of pounds and Scragg’s audacity is shown by the fact he continued the fraud in various guises even after he knew he was being investigated.

“A number of my officers have devoted the last five-and-a-half years to bringing these men to justice and I’m pleased that we can now tell the world about the extent of their crimes for the first time.

“Carl and Anthony Johnson flaunted their wealth for the local Wolverhampton community to see – which is what ultimately led to their downfall.

“It was the law-abiding citizens of the city who came to us demanding answers about how the Johnsons were increasing their wealth.

“They were once heard to joke ‘crime does pay’…they now have plenty of time behind bars to reconsider this opinion.

“I hope this sends out a very strong message that we will continue to work with other agencies to disrupt organised crime groups – no matter how long it takes – and that no-one should regard themselves as ‘untouchable’.”

Simon De Kayne, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said: “This operation is a result of strenuous efforts by our teams of officers, working closely with West Midlands Police, to disrupt the sophisticated scams of organised crime gangs behind fraud and money laundering activities.

“The three conspiracies headed up by Scragg resulted in the theft of over £34 million from the public purse, depriving vital public services of much needed investment. We are committed to bringing them to justice and to deprive them of the proceeds of their crime.”

Full list of offenders

Thomas Scragg, 56, of Rotherhams Oak Lane, Hockley Heath, Solihull
Found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat HMRC in May 2011 and sentenced to four years in prison. He was already serving 12 years plus one year for previous fraud convictions from November 2010. It means his total jail term was 17 years, one of the longest in British criminal history for fraud – only one other person has ever been given this long a sentence.

Carl Johnson, 49, of Bushbury Road, Bushbury, Wolverhampton
Found guilty of Money Laundering in July 2012, to be sentenced at a later date.

Anthony Johnson, 41, of The Avenue, Bushbury, Wolverhampton
Found guilty of Money Laundering in July 2012, to be sentenced at a later date.

Paul Phillips, 60, of Glebe House, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat HMRC and Money Laundering and sentenced to nine years in prison in November 2010

David Wilson-Gill, 40, of Marsh Moss Lane, Ormskirk, Lancashire
Found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat HMRC in May 2011 and sentenced to four years in prison.

Andrew Savin, 47, of Cranfield Grove, Yardley, Birmingham
Found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat HMRC in May 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison.

Alfred Namutulo, 59, of Rosemary Hill, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat HMRC in May 2011 and sentenced to six years in prison.

George White, 64, of Rashwood Farm, Rashwood, Droitwich
Found guilty of Money Laundering in July 2011 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Bruce Hartle, 54, of Morland Road, Great Barr
Found guilty of Money Laundering in July 2011 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Steven Oakley, 56, of The Oaks, Haverhill Road, Little Wratting, Haverhill, Suffolk
Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Cheat HMRC in March 2011 and was given a suspended sentence.

Mark Harris, 31, of Wolverhampton
Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud, Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice and Money Laundering in March 2012 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Mark Kenny, 50, of Whitethorn Crescent, Streetly
Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice and Money Laundering in March 2012 and sentenced to 13 months in prison.

Sital Sheamar, 45, of Redwood Close, Coseley
Found guilty of Conspiracy to Defraud, Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice and Money Laundering in March 2012 and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.

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