'Greedy' businessman defrauded tax man out of £2m to 'fund lifestyle that was out of his reach'

Ben Richardson. See SWNS story SWLSfraud. A
Ben Richardson defrauded HMRC of more than £2million to help fund his lavish lifestyle. (SWNS)

A "greedy" businessman defrauded HMRC out of more than £2million, using the money to help fund a lavish lifestyle including expensive cars, horses and a luxury cottage.

Ben Richardson ran a series of failing construction companies for nine years but cheated on his VAT returns and avoided paying tax, using the money to buy expensive vehicles, animals and a £200,000 house.

When the 47-year-old's was caught out, he tried to blame his accountant for the errors.

But Richardson, from Deal, Kent, pleaded guilty on the fifth day of a trial to seven counts of fraud, totalling gains of £2,177,246, and was jailed for six years at Maidstone Crown Court.

The CPS is now working to recover his ill-gotten gains.

A general view of Maidstone Crown Court where the case of comedy actor and writer Chris Langham is being heard.   (Photo by Gareth Fuller - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Richardson and three co-defendants have been sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court. (Stock image: Getty)

The court heard that Richardson ran four companies between October 2010 and July 2019, which all involved the sale of modular buildings to construction sites.

He admitted multiple tax evasion offences, as well as fraudulently evading income tax and National Insurance contributions, and also pleaded guilty to failing to disclose Construction Industry Scheme returns, resulting in an additional sum of nearly £380,000.

His wife Dawn Richardson, 47, was involved in all four companies and accepted her role in the criminal activity, admitting five fraud charges involving £708,212.

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She received a 17-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, and is now subject to a four-month tagged curfew.

Richardson's twin sister, Vickie Amas, from Birchington, Kent, also received a a ten-month jail sentence, suspended for a year, after she admitted allowing her bank account to be used to deposit cash suspected to be the proceeds of crime.

Michael Brown, 59, from Beverley, Yorkshire, who was a director at one of Richardson’s companies, was also given a 20-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, and was disqualified from being a company director for five years.

Watch: HMRC failing to collect £42bn in taxes

Recorder Edmund Burge KC said: "This was a deliberate and systematic attack on the public revenue.

"You exploited what you believed was a weakness because the HMRC trusted businesses and individuals to declare and pay the taxes they owed.

"Your motivation was greed as you wanted a more expensive and glamorous lifestyle than your legitimate income could provide and you used your various businesses as a mechanism to fund your lifestyle."

CPS legal manager Gurminder Sanghera added: “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.

"Evading taxation is not a victimless crime. The public rely on the revenue generated by tax to fund essential services, like the National Health Service and education.

"The dishonest evasion of VAT, income tax and National Insurance therefore impacts on us all."

He said the CPS would pursue confiscation proceedings to "prevent these defendants enjoying the ongoing benefit of their criminal conduct".

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."

He said all four convictions were testament to the dedication of HMRC investigators who launched three linked investigations.