Daniel Elsom, 36, attempted to dupe HMRC and associates in his role as financial director for Fareham-based sales company Utility Lead Group Ltd.
The businessman was brought to justice and jailed for four years after being found guilty of fraudulent evasion of VAT at Portsmouth Crown Court following an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Elsom, of Victoria Road, Emsworth, submitted fraudulent VAT returns to claim £310,000 in VAT repayments he and the business were not entitled to between April 2016 and June 2017.
Of the £310,000 claimed, £166,000 was paid out by HMRC and £144,000 withheld by the government department.
The court heard, the ‘devoted dad’ submitted VAT repayment claims for high-value goods and services that were never purchased or supplied during his ‘sophisticated’ operation that implicated others.
One of his ventures involved a ‘dubious’ high-end car leasing enterprise that saw him take on luxury cars including an Aston Martin and Range Rover. But these were only even used by Elsom – with no customers ever driving the cars.
On another occasion, a fraudulent £500,000 outlay for software services was claimed.
The court heard Elsom ‘fabricated invoices’ and made illegal claims for expenses that were not used for the business.
Judge William Ashworth told Elsom: ‘It appears you were saying you weren’t the leading protagonist and were being paid for what you were doing.
‘But I have absolutely no doubt you were the lead in this. It was your idea. You were the directing mind, the chief operative.
‘Sadly, you drew your friend and partner in so they could be a front as directors and so you could use their bank accounts as you were unable to do so because you were bankrupt.
‘You were filling out the VAT forms and directing people what to do. You drew others in. It was an abuse of trust. You utilised their bank accounts for your own venture.’
The court was told that Elsom had even falsified the name of his business partner in documents to HMRC. ‘You treated these people as pawns,’ the judge said.
Jack Talbot, defending, admitted his client ‘crossed the line’ with him going ‘too hard too fast which led to his dishonest actions’.
His attempts to have the sentence suspended proved futile, though.
Judge Ashworth said to Elsom: ‘You are an out and out liar, persistently trying to get ahead in business.
‘You are a substantial risk in carrying out management and directorship roles, which you would likely leave in significant loss.’
Elsom was also banned from being a director for 10 years.
Elsom was caught when information gathered by HMRC’s tax compliance officers was reviewed and investigated by its Fraud Investigation Service.
A spokeswoman for HMRC said: ‘The vast majority of people pay the right taxes at the right time and only claim what they are entitled to. Elsom abused his position as a financial controller to commit fraud by submitting false VAT returns to HMRC.
‘Tax fraud steals money from our vital public services. If you suspect anyone of tax fraud, you can report them online or by calling our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.’
HMRC will recover the fraudulently claimed VAT through civil recovery processes.