A Derbyshire businessman was sentenced yesterday for attempting to steal over £130,000 by making fraudulent VAT repayment claims for a pub and restaurant chain.

The sentencing comes after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into his business’s VAT returns.

William Ludlam, 27, of Derbyshire, was previously a director of MI Leisure Limited, which operated pubs and restaurants in Derby, Ashbourne, Chesterfield, Burton-on-Trent and Sheffield.

HMRC found that Ludlam made false VAT repayment claims totalling £130,287 between 2010 and 2011. He submitted fake invoices and paperwork falsely claiming that the company was refurbishing properties. He also under-declared sales income from the business to avoid paying VAT.

In addition, Ludlam made false VAT repayment claims of more than £30,000 for his motor accessories business, William Ludlam Ltd.

Stuart Taylor, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Abuse of the tax system to line your own pockets will not be tolerated. Today’s sentence should serve as a stern reminder that we will tackle tax fraud in all its guises on behalf of the taxpayer to secure and protect public finances.”

Ludlam lied to HMRC and submitted fake paperwork to legitimise his fraud attempts. He claimed VAT repayments for building refurbishment work on properties leased but could not prove the work had taken place and falsified a number of invoices when challenged by HMRC.

HMRC paid approximately £19,000 to MI Leisure Ltd but blocked the other claims and began a criminal investigation into the Ludlam’s tax and business affairs.

Yesterday, 16 September 2014, Ludlam was jailed for 12 months suspended for 18 months and banned from directorship for five years at Derby Crown Court. He also has to serve 250 hours of community work.

At sentencing His Honour Judge Burgess said:

”It is apparent that you are incredibly dishonest. Your record shows that you are a chancer, a conman and are not to be trusted. You have grand ideas based on little except an amount of charm and HMRC have suffered because of your actions and because the companies were ran badly. I am giving you a chance to prove you have changed. You are very fortunate, don’t waste this opportunity.”