Lady Deborah Anne Devonshire, 51, previously known as Georgiana Cavendish, lied that she traded as a furniture restorer and claimed £166,295 in VAT repayments, with £105,763 paid out, between August 2013 and February 2016.
But HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators couldn’t find any trading activity and found her only income in this period was the VAT refunds from HMRC.
Colin Spinks, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Deborah Devonshire fraudulently used the tax system as her personal bank account. She lied about being in business to claim VAT refunds she wasn’t entitled to. There was no business to claim refunds for; it was a total fabrication.
“We will continue to pursue those criminals who attack the tax system. Anyone with information about suspected VAT fraud should contact our 24-hour hotline.”
Devonshire pleaded guilty to VAT evasion and fraud by false representation at Swindon Crown Court on Friday 17 February 2017. She was immediately jailed for two years and eight months.
Upon sentencing Devonshire, Mr Recorder Clarkson QC, said:
“You may be a fantasist. You obviously have created the prefix ‘Lady’ with a view to being someone you are not. You have the style of a fraudster…HMRC’s job is difficult enough.”
The fraud was uncovered by HMRC compliance checks and referred for criminal investigation.