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By Chris Willmott 09/07 Updated: 12/07 09:41
A CONMAN who scammed UK tax officials out of £34 million has been jailed for 17 years - one of the longest sentences in British criminal history for fraud.
Thomas Scragg, from Hockley Heath, was jailed for a total of 17 years following three separate fraud convictions against HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for stealing millions of pounds in employee PAYE tax following a joint investigation by West Midlands Police and HMRC.
Scragg and co-defendant Paul Phillips of Derbyshire set up numerous companies over a five year period as part of the complex fraud.
The men used criminal profits to finance their multi million pound homes, high performance cars including Bentleys and Lamborghinis and their lavish social lives in top London hotels.
The extent of Scragg's racket has remained a secret until now as cases against his two henchmen Carl and Anthony Johnson from Wolverhampton progressed through court.
But the brothers' convictions on Monday (July 9) for money laundering Scragg's ill-gotten gains has now lifted reporting restrictions and the lid on the 56-year-old's criminal empire.
Scragg used his business 'Moya Payroll' which managed staff wages of construction industry companies to steal over £26m in tax over a five year period between 2002 and 2007.
His co-defendant, Paul Phillips from Derbyshire, was jailed for nine years.
Birmingham Crown Court heard how Carl (49) and Anthony Johnson (51) lived extravagant lifestyles using money they received from Scragg in return for their "protection services".
In total he paid the brothers, who had a string of convictions for violence and witness intimidation, around £2.4m.
All three men spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on luxury hotels in London and regularly ran up massive bills in local restaurants.
The notorious Johnson brothers kitted out their homes with state-of-the art security equipment; Carl had bulletproof glass put in his Bushbury Road home, while Anthony rebuilt his house on Sandy Lane, installing a cinema room, stables and dog kennels.
They drove around in expensive cars including a Lamborghini Murcielago, Bentley Continental, Porsche Cayenne and Ferrari Spider.
Both brothers claimed their wealth came from running a legitimate security business called Unit 11, but the company paid nothing in tax to HMRC.
The investigations into Scragg's empire also led to the convictions of co-conspirators who helped him carry out the fraud. The court heard how the men - some of them industry accredited accountants and auditors - helped Scragg execute the scam and launder his cash in such a way as not to raise the suspicion of the authorities.
The audacity of the fraud intensified after Scragg's arrest when three of his associates tried to deceive auditors who were appointed by the court to restrict his finances.
Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Edwards from West Midlands Police said: "This was fraud and money laundering on a massive scale.
"It deprived the public purse of millions of pounds and Scragg's audacity is shown by the fact he continued the fraud in various guises even after he knew he was being investigated.
"I hope this sends out a very strong message that we will continue to work with other agencies to disrupt organised crime groups no matter how long it takes and that no-one should regard themselves as 'untouchable'."
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