Ex-tax worker jailed over £171k fraud after he blamed it on dead man

A former tax worker was jailed after hijacking the identity of a dead man to cover up a £171,000 fraud - and attempting to claim the deceased was a criminal mastermind behind the scheme.

Veteran HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) VAT inspector James McGee, 66, was making bogus VAT repayment claims as part of a sophisticated ruse after working in his role for more than three decades.

McGee, of Troon, South Ayrshire, left his job in 2009 after 34 years, and was arrested in 2013 when he was found to have two bank cards in the name of the dead man.

One of the accounts had been opened after the man died and the other had been credited with some of the fraudulently obtained money, but McGee claimed the deceased was the criminal mastermind behind the scheme which was intended to launder money.

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Officers searching McGee's home seized handwritten paper records from his house which contained detailed information on several VAT registered businesses.

Experts confirmed the handwritten records matched McGee's entries in his old HMRC diaries and notebooks.

McGee was initially arrested as part of a NCA investigation into identity fraud, of which he was cleared.

During a search of his property following arrest, officers recovered documents suggesting he was involved in VAT fraud, triggering the HMRC enquiry.

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McGee was convicted at Ayr Sheriff Court.

During interview, McGee insisted he was not responsible for any criminality, but admitted using the hijacked identity when calling HMRC's VAT helpline.

McGee, who used to work from HMRC's Ayr and Paisley offices, insisted the individual whose identity he used was the brains behind it - but the bent tax worker was central to the fraud.

The group fraudulently obtained money from HMRC, with the proceeds being laundered through accounts controlled by McGee and the others.

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In total, £101,443.14 was paid out due to the false VAT repayment claims, while a further £70,351 was withheld by HMRC.

He was finally jailed today (May 16) for 30 months after a joint HMRC and National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.

A jury saw through his lies and convicted him of one count of VAT fraud and two counts of money laundering offences at Ayr Sheriff Court.

Lynsey Thompson, Operational Lead, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "McGee used his knowledge of the VAT system to coordinate a scheme to steal from the public purse - money that is essential to fund the services we need, such as hospitals and schools.

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"This was a shameful way for a former employee of 34 years to act, but this conviction shows that nobody is above the law."

Rob Miles, NCA Scotland Operations Manager, said: "NCA investigators worked closely with our colleagues at HMRC to capture the evidence that was key to bringing McGee to justice.

"He used his experience and knowledge of the system to further his offending and probably thought this would help him evade detection.

"We're working with law enforcement partners across Scotland to prevent organised criminality and we're determined to tackle fraud in all its forms."

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The others involved in the fraud were Mark Dryden, 37, of Riverview Gardens, Glasgow; Carly McGinley, 33, of Braes Avenue, Clydebank; and Gary Prentice, 36, of Bouverie Street, Glasgow. All were sentenced at Ayr Sheriff Court on 7 February 2022. Dryden was jailed for 10 months and Prentice was ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work within 24 months and is subject of a Restriction of Liberty Order for four months. McGinley was fined £1,120.