Five people from the Market Rasen area are set to be sentenced for their part in a £5 million scam to defraud taxpayers.
Michael Wilmot, 72, of Low Road, Osgodby, Tracie Morton, 50, of Toft-next-Newton and Michael Taylor, 38, of Waterloo Street, Market Rasen, were all found guilty of conspiracy to evade paying excise duty on Government-subsidised fuels between March 1, 2006, and March 30, 2012, and conspiracy to cheat Her Majesty’s Revenue.
They were part of a huge operation to illegally sell red diesel.
The trio were found guilty of both offences at Hull Crown Court on Thursday and Friday having pleaded innocent when the trial began back on April 24.
David Strachan, 50, of Peak Mews, Market Rasen, who was a Market Rasen town councillor until he resigned last week, was found guilty of conspiracy to evade payment, but cleared of conspiracy to cheat the Revenue.
Wilmot’s cousin, Charles Trafford, 59, of Glebe Farm Cottage, Osgodby, and Marion Tompkins, 57, of Little Tows, near Ludford, were cleared of both charges.
The prosecution claimed Wilmot was the central figure in the scam selling large amounts of reduced-cost red diesel.
The prosecution claimed that Trafford, a farmer, sold “massive quantities” of red diesel to others, mainly Wilmot, through a network of companies that were used to front the scam.
Morton was Wilmot’s accomplice in actively trying to reclaim VAT payments wrongfully.
He denied being involved with the other defendants in the red diesel scam, including using Tompkins for administrative support.
Strachan, a driver, was stopped in vehicles that had red diesel in them and had a key to a barn where there were tanks for heavy goods vehicles.
Sentencing of the four convicted has been adjourned to link up with that of John Raithby, 59, of Snitterby Road, Waddingham, who was originally due to stand trial, but admitted a charge of fraudulently evading payment of VAT.
Lincolnshire Police officers commenced an investigation in early 2011 after initially stopping lorries that were running on red fuel. These vehicles had fake tanks housed within the main fuel tank which meant that when the tank was dipped it showed it was running on white but the bulk of the tank was actually filled with red.
The companies run by these individuals had lucrative haulage contracts with companies and were able to undercut their competitors by using the red fuel. They had countless company names that they used to evade detection of these offences. When a company was investigated they would stop operating under that name and commence under another company name. In addition, foreign names were used as company directors, as well as deceased individuals.
PC Rachel Hughes, who started the investigation locally in Market Rasen before being joined by HMRC and VOSA, said she welcomed the sentences imposed by the courts.
“These are crimes that have affected countless victims because the offenders were lining their pockets with British taxpayers’ money. Not only has it had a huge impact on the economy but it has affected people locally because they have felt very let down.
“Michael Wilmot, in particular, who was very much the ringleader in this scam, has shown little or no remorse after he was charged and when he appeared in court. The sentence that has been handed to him rightfully shows how heinous his crimes were, as they were of all those involved.
“This case has taken over three years to get to trial because it has been such an extensive and complex investigation. What began as stopping lorries running on red fuel has grown into a multi-million pound tax evasion case. I am pleased it has culminated in convictions and subsequent prison sentences. Michael Taylor
“We hope this serves as a stark warning to any other individuals carrying out any similar crimes, or thinking of carrying them out, and shows that Lincolnshire Police is committed to tackling serious fraud.”
All defendants will be sentenced at York Crown Court on July 10th.