Five family members sentenced in £600,000 fraud
Five members of the same family have been sentenced after a lengthy investigation into fraud.
The Coffey family's bank accounts showed vast turnovers of money. They invested in multiple properties paid for by cash or bankers drafts. They also purchased high value motor vehicles using false names at a time when only two, father John and son Michael, declared a joint weekly income of around £250 and three others claimed benefits. In fact they were all directly or indirectly involved in the family's driveway resurfacing and block paving business.
The investigation, lead by Gloucestershire Constabulary, involved over 200 officers at its peak, drawn from five police forces, HMRC and the DWP.
Husband and wife John and Brigid Coffey, as well as their children Michael, Mary and Helen were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court today (01 June) after pleading guilty to tax evasion totalling £500,000 and other fraud offences in excess of £100,000.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Shorrock, who led the investigation for Gloucestershire Constabulary, said:
"The sentencing of the Coffey family marks the culmination of many years of work by literally hundreds of officers and officials. This family had been engaging in questionable financial and business activities for many years, until we collectively caught up with them.
"I'd like to thank all the agencies who worked with us on this case and hope the end result acts as a salient warning to anyone else considering engaging in this type of activity.
"This joined up working is evidence, should any be needed, of our ability to pull together with other agencies on cross border and wide ranging, complicated financial investigations in an effort to tackle serious criminality."
Simon De Kayne, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, HM Revenue & Customs said:
"The Coffeys blatantly evaded UK tax laws to selfishly steal around £500,000 of taxpayers' money to fund their criminally gained lifestyles and expanding property portfolio.
"The sentencing shows HMRC, along with our partner agencies, will not only pursue and prosecute tax fraudsters but also seek to reclaim the proceeds of their crimes. Anyone with information about tax fraud should contact the Tax Evasion Hotline on 0800 788 887."
The Coffey family consists of John, 49, Brigid, 51, Mary, 28, Helen 26, and Michael, 23. The family - who also use other names including Delaney and Kennedy - owns and has lived at a number of properties, including two farms in Peterstone Wentlooge, Cardiff, a house in West Drayton in Middlesex, and two houses in Rumney, Cardiff.
The West Drayton property 'Bigley Kennels' was used as accommodation for some workers building Heathrow's Terminal 5.
At the time the investigation started, the family owned and used two plots at the Mount View Caravan Site, in Naas Lane, Brookthorpe, near Gloucester.
During the course of the investigation all of these addresses were searched and various items were seized, however much of the investigation centred on financial activity.
This included close investigation of the accounts relating to the family's business interests - they ran companies called 'B & B Welsh Paving' and 'Sunset Drives and Landscapes Ltd', which provided driveway resurfacing services. The latter was set up as a front to deliberately conceal the true extent of their business revenues from HMRC. They failed to notify HMRC and falsely notified HMRC of the true extent of their incomes.
In April 2009 the family members were charged with offences, including cheating the public revenue, benefit fraud and money laundering.
A number of court appearances followed and in 2010 guilty pleas were entered to 20 charges.
The police forces involved in the investigation were Gloucestershire Constabulary, South Wales Police, Gwent Police, Avon and Somerset Police, and the Metropolitan Police. Some of the financial investigations were conducted through Zephyr - the South West regional crime team set up to deal with serious and organised crime.
HMRC led the tax fraud investigation and the DWP were also heavily involved, as were the Complex Case Unit and Central Fraud Group of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Stroud District Council also assisted with the investigation, when it initially centred on the Mountview Caravan site at Naas Lane, Brookthorpe.
£500,000 has already been restrained from the family's 29 bank accounts - money that is now subject to confiscation proceedings.
A further £100,000 approximately in benefits and housing allowance is now the subject of compensation hearings.
Upon sentencing at Bristol Crown Court His Honour Judge David Ticehurst, said:
None of us like paying taxes, but those taxes are paid to fund hospitals, schools, nurses and the benefit system that some of you chose to cheat.....You chose not to pay tax, or to falsely claim benefits to which you were not entitled.
"Each of you is dishonest and you chose a calculated form of conduct, false names and false accounts were used to hide money from the tax man.
It is individuals like you that give the travelling community a bad name....and adds to the difficulties experienced by your community.
You John Coffey were the spider at the centre of the web of deceit; this was a wilful and deliberate failure to pay tax. This was a family enterprise and you were all in it together to a greater or lesser extent.
The court heard that during interview some of the family said their income came from horses, selling cars and family inheritance.