A Doncaster man, who acquired a £2million property portfolio, including luxury properties in Tenerife and across South Yorkshire, through fraud has been jailed for two years at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday.
Investigations revealed that Mark Lawton, 45, from Town Moor in Doncaster had committed a series of frauds from which he amassed a significant property portfolio. He owned 17 properties in Tenerife and across Doncaster, which were rented out, but for which he didn’t declare any profits. He also lied about his financial circumstances to obtain a loan by deception, as well as providing false income details in order to claim the education maintenance allowance for his son.
Although Lawton also owned the extensive property portfolio he had claimed that his family’s small tanning salon business only made him an income of around £10,000 per year. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) estimate that Lawton had defrauded the taxpayer out of £65,000 in unpaid taxes alone.
Lawton was caught when HMRC seized 10,000 illegal cigarettes which he had been selling and £50,000 in cash stored at his home and business premises. He was found guilty of fraud and failing to pay tax on his business profits.
Lawton pleaded guilty to charges of cheating the public revenue, evasion of excise duty and possession of criminal property (£50,000 cash). He was sentenced yesterday to 24 months imprisonment for cheating the public revenue, three months imprisonment for the evasion of excise duty – sentences to run concurrently. £50,420 cash was forfeited to the Crown for the charge of possession of criminal property. Lawton was also ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.
Lawton’s wife Christina was convicted of fraudulently claiming the education maintenance allowance for their children. The couple’s accountant Joanne Outram, 42, from Rossington was also convicted of helping the couple to prepare false documentation, to facilitate their claim for the education maintenance allowance payments.
Peter Hollier, Deputy Regional Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC said: “Lawton made a significant effort to hide his business dealings from the authorities. He enjoyed the benefits of our public services and lived a lifestyle that many families work hard to achieve, but his activity was stealing vital public revenue. It is only fair to those hard working families that he has been brought to justice.”
Sentencing Mark Lawton yesterday His Honour Judge Kelson QC commented: “You and your wife were living well beyond your declared means. What you declared to the Revenue was far short of the correct figure – therefore you were enjoying a better lifestyle than that of honest people.”
The Judge also passed comment sentencing the couple’s accountant Joanne Outram stating: “You are a qualified accountant, a professional person and you did this for personal gain by keeping the custom of your client. The involvement by professional people by making claims on the state erodes the public confidence.”