The gang, masterminded by Paul Hackney from Stoke-on-Trent, set up a string of companies to steal money from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) so that they could buy high performance cars, expensive jewellery and exotic holidays at the taxpayer’s expense.
They had helped themselves to £2.3m before they were caught.
The group fabricated transactions and sales of construction equipment. They produced fake invoices and paperwork to try and make their companies look like legitimate traders to reclaim VAT on sales and exports. They did not pay any VAT as the ‘goods’ didn’t exist.
HMRC assistant director of criminal investigation Adrian Farley said: “They thought their plan would go undetected because they had created such a complex paper trail – but they were wrong. We will unravel even the most complex cases of fraud and bring those responsible before the courts so justice can be served.”
The defendants, three women and 14 men from Staffordshire, the northwest and Essex were arrested by HMRC officers between February 2010 and November 2010 after an extensive investigation into their criminal activities. During the investigation, searches were carried out at residential and business properties in Staffordshire, Cheshire, Manchester and Suffolk. Officers seized bank accounts and computers along with cash, CS spray and an imitation firearm.
Reporting restrictions had been in place throughout two trials but have now been lifted on sentencing of the final defendants.
Paul Hackney was jailed for five years and three months.
Robert Hackney of Brookfield Road, Baddeley Green, Stoke-on-Trent was sentenced to two years and four months in prison.
Diane Susan Hackney of Bladon Crescent, Alsager, Stoke-on-Trent got two years, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry of 200 hours of community service.
Andrew John Plant of High Street, Talke Pits, Stoke-on-Trent was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years with supervision.
Ghent Paul Wakefield of Stoke-on-Trent was sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Dean Antony Benson of Heathcote Road, Longton, Stoke on Trent was given eight months.
Simon John Hicks of Oakpitt Cottages, Harbourgh Hall Lane, Messing, Colchester was sent to jailed for four years and three months.
Maxine Tracey Hicks of the same address was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 12 months, with a six months supervisions order.
Garry John Hicks of Platt Avenue, Sandbach, Cheshire was sentenced to two years in prison.
Gary Nicholas Richards of Crewe Road, Sandbach, Cheshire, was sentenced to 16 months, suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Joanne Lesley Richards of Crewe Road, Sandbach, Cheshire, was sentenced to 12 month community order and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
Louis John Barta of Whitchurch Road, Nantwich, Cheshire, was sentenced to 32 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
Mark Robert Allen of Anglesey Drive, Poynton, Stockport, got seven months in prison, suspended for 12 months, plus 120 hours of unpaid work.
Russell Terence Bateman of Platt Avenue, Sandbach, Cheshire, got 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, plus 180 hours of unpaid work.
David Vincent Bennett of Anglesey Drive, Poynton, Stockport, was given seven months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
Gavin Geoffrey Parkes of Manor Drive, Barnton, Northwich, Cheshire, was jailed for 21 months.
Peter Stanier of Thistleton Close, Macclesfield, got 13 months, suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.