Lancashire

Clarence Dock 'U-boat captain' jailed for £1m VAT fraud

Richard Williams
Image caption Williams said he regretted the fraud but it was a "crazy time"

A fraudster who used cash from a £1m VAT scam to build a replica U-boat on a canal has been jailed.

Richard Williams, 55, made false tax claims on orders for non-existent beds he had received from people with disabilities.

A £50,000 narrowboat he converted into the replica submarine was among a string of extravagant purchases.

Williams, from Blackpool, was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Manchester Crown Court.

'Crazy times'

Williams, formerly known as Steven Howarth, of Redcar Road, pleaded guilty to three counts of cheating public revenue and fraud.

During the fraud, HMRC said, Williams ran the replica World War Two German U-boat as an attraction at Clarence Dock, Leeds.

He posted promotional videos filmed onboard to social media, they said.

At his sentencing on Friday, the court heard Williams also bought yachts, luxury cars and chartered private jets.

Image copyright HMRC
Image caption Williams ran the replica World War Two German U-boat as an attraction in Clarence Dock, Leeds

His wife Laurel Howarth, 28, from Leeds, was handed a 20-month sentence after she admitted three counts of VAT fraud.

Her Majesty's Revenues and Customs (HMRC) said the pair used friends' names to carry out the frauds - even changing their names by deed poll to match their identities.

The couple faked invoices and customer records from the four companies to make fraudulent VAT repayment claims.

  • Blackpool-based Sleepability.co.uk trading between 2005 and 2006
  • Ortho-matic, trading between 2007 and 2008, based in Lancaster
  • Discount Mobility Store, trading between 2009 and 2010, based in Workington, Cumbria
  • Adjustabed which traded between 2010 and 2011 and based in Penrith, Cumbria
Image copyright HMRC
Image caption Laurel Howarth was also jailed for VAT fraud

Before sentencing, Williams said: "I regret what I did sincerely but it did have its moments.

He said it was "a crazy time" but had been "a very silly thing to do".

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