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‘Fantasist’ furniture fixer’s fabric-ated fraud fails

Press Release   •   Feb 17, 2017 16:48 GMT

HMRC generic search image (Source HMRC)

A Wiltshire woman, who falsely claimed to be a furniture restorer to commit a £166,000 VAT fraud, has been jailed for two years and eight months.

Lady Deborah Anne Devonshire, 55, previously known as Georgiana Cavendish, lied that she traded as a furniture restorer and claimed £166,295 in VAT repayments, with £105,763 paid out, between August 2013 and February 2016.

But HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators couldn’t find any trading activity and found her only income in this period was the VAT refunds from HMRC.

Colin Spinks, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“Deborah Devonshire fraudulently used the tax system as her personal bank account. She lied about being in business to claim VAT refunds she wasn’t entitled to. There was no business to claim refunds for; it was a total fabrication.

“We will continue to pursue those criminals who attack the tax system. Anyone with information about suspected VAT fraud should contact our 24-hour hotline.”

Devonshire pleaded guilty to VAT evasion and fraud by false representation at Swindon Crown Court on Friday 17 February 2017. She was immediately jailed for two years and eight months.

Upon sentencing Devonshire, Mr Recorder Clarkson QC, said:

“You may be a fantasist. You obviously have created the prefix ‘Lady’ with a view to being someone you are not. You have the style of a fraudster…HMRC’s job is difficult enough.”

The fraud was uncovered by HMRC compliance checks and referred for criminal investigation.

Notes for Editors

1. Lady Deborah Anne Devonshire (deed poll name change),DOB 14/05/1961, of Wood Street, Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. Known as Georgiana Cavendish at the time of her arrest by HMRC in April 2016, she lived in Oaksey, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, but has since changed her name. She is also known to have used the name Georgiana Lynn-Halls and was born Deborah Church.

2. At Swindon Crown Court on 17 February 2017 she pleaded guilty to:

  • Fraud by false representation, contrary to sections 1 & 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 – namely submitting VAT returns with fabricated figures between 1 August 2013 and 31 August 2015.
  • The fraudulent evasion of VAT, contrary to section 72(1) of the VAT Act 1994 – by submitting false VAT return declarations between 1 September 2015 and 29 February 2016.

3. Anyone with information about suspected tax evasion can contact our hotline on 0800 59 5000 or report it online at https://www.gov.uk/topic/dealing-with-hmrc/tax-compliance

4. Follow HMRC Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.