A businessman who registered the births of 26 non-existent babies using phony birth certificates for ficticious home births - all as part of a massive, organised benefit fraud scam - has been jailed.
He duped people into applying for fake jobs at a Glasgow hotel through an ad on Gumtree - then used their identity details and those of other couples to get copies of their marriage certificates.
He used those and forged letters claiming the youngsters had been born in home births before using them to register the non-existent children.
McWhirter also used the birth certificates for non-existent children to claim tax credits, child benefit and maternity grants.
His lawyer claimed the scheme was “hardly Machiavellian”.
But a sheriff said it was a “sophisticated fraudulent scheme” and jailed the £80,000-a-year businessman for two years and four months.
McWhirter was only caught after returning to the scene of one of his early false birth registrations at Aberdeen registry office where he was recognised by staff.
Around the same time, an “organised attack” on HMRC’s computer systems – which showed around 350 requests had been received for tax credit application forms from addresses linked to McWhirter – triggered alarms.
In the end it was McWhirter’s BMW Z4 convertible car that led police to his door.
Fiscal depute Vicki Bell told Dundee Sheriff Court that the fictitious births were then used to make fraudulent claims for child benefit, working tax credits and Sure Start maternity grant payments.
McWhirter presented letters to registrars at various offices throughout Scotland purporting to be from doctors confirming the births of children at home, as well as marriage certificates in the names of ten separate people who he claimed were the parents.
During the meetings he acted as if he was the male named on the marriage certificate while registering the birth, the court was told.
During one conversation with the Dundee Registrar on May 19, 2015, he even spoke about having problems setting up the “home birthing pool” in his living room, Miss Bell said.
On 22 May, 2015, in Aberdeen, he registered two children’s names and the following day at the same office he attempted to buy a copy of a marriage certificate for his brother, Lockhart Brown, claiming his name was Luke Brown.
The registrar who registered the births for him recognised him and heard him provide this different name.
Miss Bell said: “Four of the names used as claimants were traced and they advised they didn’t make the claims.
“They had all, however, applied for the same job for front of house staff at a four star hotel in Glasgow advertised on Gumtree in March 2015.
“The ad required a CV and a national insurance number.
“It transpired their details had been used to fraudulently claimed tax credits.
“It was then discovered that 14 claims for tax credits had been made by persons residing in Perth Road, Dundee, and in Campbeltown at flats related to the accused’s company.
“In total the accused registered 22 false births for 26 children.
“During one he referred to problems with a home birthing pool and said his wife was a paediatric doctor.
“When he attended at Edinburgh registrars in June 2015 to register a birth he was seen using a silver or grey BMW car with a private plate.
“The motor car referred to led police to an address in Perth Road, Dundee, where the former co-accused opened the door.
“He provided full admissions stating he was in severe financial difficulty and needed money.
“He stated he considered the registration system in Scotland to be archaic and easy to create false registrations.
“His purpose had been to claim benefits pertaining to the child.
“During the search a large quantity of bank cards, computer equipment and approximately 50 birth certificates from the Republic of Ireland and documentation relating to claiming benefits were seized.”
McWhirter, 29, of Douglas Crescent, Edinburgh, pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge of fraud committed between 1 June, 2014, and 22 October, 2015, at addresses across Scotland.
In total he claimed tax credits amounting to £14,222.48, child benefits of £19,658.70 and a Sure Start maternity grant of £500 - a total of £34,381.18.
His paediatric doctor girlfriend, Kiyo Adya, originally appeared in court alongside McWhirter last year but had the charges against her dropped.
McWhirter’s solicitor John McLeod said: “The money was not coming in one fantastic windfall - it was all dribs and drabs.
“This is reasonably described as a benefit fraud - but it is far from the ordinary of that type of crime.
“The money was going straight into his property business venture.
“He has had two failed businesses - first a bar that was swiftly run into the ground and the property company.
“He felt he couldn’t go back to his family - who are successful - for a second bail out so came up with this scheme.
“This was well planned in the sense that a lot of effort was put in.
“But it is hardly Machiavellian and it came unstuck because he was foolish enough to go in to the same registrar’s office several times.”
Sheriff Alastair Carmichael sentenced McWhirter to 28 months’ imprisonment.
He said: “This was a fairly sophisticated fraudulent scheme.
“It was an attack on the public purse, on the integrity of the system of births, deaths and marriages and also an attack on the system of working tax credits, child benefit and maternity grants.
“Putting that all together there is no alternative to custody.”