A Department for Work and Pension (DWP) fraud investigator that claimed innocence has been given a suspended 18-month prison sentence for her part in her husband’s £885,000 Gift Aid fraud.
Mark Lewis was sentenced to four years for claiming Gift Aid on donations that never arrived at the charities he was claiming on behalf of.
Between June 2007 and July 2010, Lewis made 13 claims for the Welsh Independent School of Climbing and Mountaineering Trust (WISCM) – of which Lewis was CEO – and later the MSL Mountaineering Trust Ltd.
Lewis was assisted by his wife Elizabeth in laundering the proceeds of the crime.
The couple used the money to pay for the equity of their home, buy up and renovate a number of properties and invest substantial amounts in several failed businesses.
Colin Spinks, assistant director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Over a three year period Mark Lewis submitted false claims knowing full well that it was an abuse of a scheme designed to help genuine charities in need.
“When arrested, both he and his wife blamed everyone but themselves. Our investigations proved, however, that the orchestrator was Mark Lewis, and the couple were the only beneficiaries.
”HMRC is committing more resources than ever to tracking down tax fraudsters. We will not hesitate to investigate and take action against those who cheat at the expense of the law-abiding public.”
Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: “Mark Lewis was in a trusted position in the charity, and together with his wife he abused that position for his own personal gain.
“The outcome of this case sends a strong message to anyone who thinks that they can exploit the status of charity and charity tax reliefs for their own personal gain, that they will be caught and prosecuted.
The couple were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court, with Mr Lewis having pleaded guilty receiving a four year prison term, while Mrs Lewis, who had denied charges of money laundering was given 18 months, suspended for two years.