A fraudster husband and wife who stole the identities of friends and acquaintances to help commit a £1m tax fraud have been jailed.
Richard Williams, who was well-known in Chorley for being the captain of a U-boat-themed tourist attraction, was arrested in 2012 after Customs officials discovered he and his wife, Laurel Howarth, had been hijacking identities to try to hide the elaborate VAT fraud.
They pretended to run a number of businesses across the North West, selling specially-adapted beds for the disabled.
The couple even changed their names by deed poll to match their new identities, faking invoices and customer records to make fraudulent VAT repayment claims.
They also continued to claim benefits such as Disability Living Allowance throughout the scam.
Williams, 55, now of Redcar Road, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to four counts of cheating the public revenue and fraud and has been locked up for four and a half years.
Howarth, also known as Monckman, 28, and previously of the same address, pleaded guilty to three counts of VAT fraud and was jailed for 20 months at Manchester Crown Court yesterday.
Among their victims was Kerry Clegg, from Avenham Place, Newton-with-Scales, near Preston.
It is believed Laurel Howarth changed her name to Kerry’s by deed poll and then applied for a driving licence in her name to help carry out their scams.
Kerry said today: “It was awful. I had no clue what was going on.”