18 months jail for fraudster who invented bogus firm to swindle £140k from taxman
A mother who swindled close to £140,000 of VAT money through a non-existent company has been sent to jail for 18 months.
Donna Magee Daly (44) – who was saved from a longer sentence because she is a parent – carried out a large scale and complex fraud over almost two years.
Dungannon Crown Court Judge Gemma Loughran said that despite an "impassioned plea" from defence QC Eugene Grant not to jail her, Daly's offences were too serious not to be met with an immediate custodial sentence in order to punish her and to deter others.
She also poured scorn on claims by Daly that she did not know what she was doing, that she was "under pressure", or that she did not know it was illegal, pointing to the fact that her lawyer claimed she had an accountancy degree.
"I do not accept that you had no option but to commit these offences," said Judge Loughran, adding: "Your intellectual ability isn't as limited as suggested."
Daly, from Hollyfields in Dungannon, had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation, 14 charges of possessing articles in connection with a fraud, and one further count of making an article for use in a fraud, all of which occurred on dates between July 1, 2010 and February 6, 2012.
Those frauds related to her falsely claiming £140,000 in VAT returns while police and Customs searches uncovered 800 blank invoices, falsified bank statements, a bank logo ready for scanning and other concocted invoices amounting to almost £500,000.
Officers raided Daly's home on February 6, 2012 – during which she hid in a wardrobe – and uncovered the false documents.
Prosecuting lawyer Simon Reid said: "There were false invoices for companies that did not trade with the defendant in the way suggested, or in addition did not exist," he said.
"The evidence shows there was in fact no genuine business being carried on in the way advanced by the defendant, and it was a sham for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining VAT refunds, and the documents were creations for the purpose of the enterprise."
Mr Grant had submitted that sending Daly to jail would have detrimental effects on her schoolgirl daughter, who was an "entirely innocent party", and claimed that Daly had been "under severe pressure" from unnamed sources to comply with the fraud.
Jailing Daly, however, Judge Loughran said she had to balance her right to family life with the interests of justice and the "needs of society to punish serious crime and the need for deterrence".
She said the offences were aggravated by reason of Daly's criminal record of 28 offences.
Mike Parkinson, assistant director criminal investigation at HMRC, said: "As a bookkeeper, Magee knew full well she was breaking the law, yet chose to overlook it for the opportunity of what she wrongly assumed would be easy money at the expense of the taxpayer."