Saturday, May 7, 2011

Englishwoman Gets Seven Years for Using Fake Names to Bilk VAT Refunds

A lesson to me.  Thankfully I was never arrested for fraud.  I used to tell men in bars who paid unwanted attentions back in my wild days that I was Betty Boop.  Gave out fake phone numbers, too.  Yes, really!  Shame, shame on me.

Conwoman claimed to be BOTH daughters of T.S. Eliot to help steal £118k (even though the poet didn't have any children)
By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 9:07 AM on 6th May 2011

Alison Reynolds (from article)
A con artist who posed as the identical twin daughters of poet T.S. Eliot was today jailed for seven years after defrauding the Government of nearly £120,000.

Alison Reynolds pretended to be both Claire and Chess Eliot, who she claimed were the twin daughters of the poet. In fact, Eliot never had any children.Reynolds used wigs, stage make-up and a variety of costumes to portray herself as at least 32 different people, Southampton Crown Court heard.

Using some of the fake identities, she posed as a theatre producer and director and falsely claimed VAT credits in the name of bogus dramatic companies.Actors and stage technicians had complained they had been left out of pocket after appearing in productions by Reynolds. [Oh, poor babies.  Go to Hollywood, see what happens to you there!]

Reynolds, 48, from Southampton, Hants, admitted eight charges including VAT fraud - claiming back VAT she had never spent - having a false driving licence and falsifying legal letters. She claimed VAT credits in the name of bogus theatre companies including Myths And Mirrors, Dreamweavers and Plan B at different locations around the country.

The names Claire and Chess Eliot were just two of a string of disguises Reynolds used to claim tax credits in the name of the companies.

And she even wrote a play about a woman who uses a false identity to become a Hollywood producer. [Oh come on, lots of people pretend to be Hollywood producers.]

Prosecutor Cairns Nelson QC told the court: 'What is clear is that this defendant is a dishonest fantastist. She created a job lot of bent accounts and used them for each of the companies she was involved with. The level of dishonesty and fraud is breathtaking.' [Right. They're just pissed off because she got away with over 100,000 pounds in tax fraud. Men who do this get movies made about them. See below.]

Mr. Nelson said it was doubtful the firms took part in legitimate business but instead were vehicles to commit fraud using false invoices to try and fool the authorities.

Reynolds had previous convictions for dishonesty dating back to 1987 and had used 13 different dates of birth during her criminal career, the court heard. In 2002 she was made the subject of a restraining order preventing her from using other names without informing the court or police.

In 2003, she moved to Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire where she pretended to be identical twins Claire and Chess Eliot. She set up The Journeyman Theatre Company and wrote a play, Desperately Seeking Jake Roverton, to make her scam more compelling. She even convinced managers at The Brewhouse Theatre to let her rehearse there free of charge. [What is the crime here - stupidity on the part of the theatre managers?]

The ruse was rumbled after theatre staff became suspicious that they had never seen Claire and Chess in the same room. Confronted by staff, she claimed to be in fact Denise Bryan. Staffordshire police investigated but did not find enough evidence to charge her.

A year later, Reynolds resurfaced in Sheffield using the alias Rebecca Perry, this time promoting a UK tour of play, Picture Perfect, by her new enterprise, Dreamweavers Theatre Company.

Next she went to Bristol setting up Plan B Theatre Company using the assumed name Alison Kennedy, peddling a new play called Holding Out For A Hero.

When police raided the Belle Gray clothes shop Reynolds owned in Lymington in 2008, HMRC officers found passports and driving licences in a number of names. Officers also discovered To Do lists with a reminder of 'VAT invoices to fake'. One letter on headed paper from a bogus firm said one of her aliases had gone missing in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.  Reynolds had even worked as a PA at a firm of solicitors under the name Jessica Maynard and had stolen an official stamp and headed paper to help her dupe the VAT man. [I'm sorry - I'm laughing right now.  This is just too funny.  She must have been very good at her job at the law firm.]

Abigail Coghill-Smith, defending Reynolds, who was born Virginia Povall, said she was bullied at school because of her name. She also suggested that her frauds were not complex.

But Judge Peter Ralls QC disagreed.  Sentencing Reynolds, he said: 'There is an extraordinary level of planning and preparation and a staggering level of dishonesty in this case. I'm not sure I have seen a case which involved such persistent and detailed fraudulent activity. This is not VAT evasion - you're basically stealing from the public purse, dipping in as if it's your own and taking money that you have not earned. All of the receipts and invoices you have produced have a very genuine look about them. Quite a lot of trouble has gone into producing them. You hid your identity to make it more unlikely that you would be caught.' [Yeah, right.  You're just pissed off because a woman outfoxed The Man for so long.]

Reynolds was jailed for six years concurrently for the eight counts of fraud and given a 12 month sentence to run consecutively for perverting justice and breaching a restraining order.

She was also disqualified from acting as a company director for ten years.[Ouch! This punishment hurts! Now she can't be on the Board of Directors of a NYSE listed company. Maybe we need to give this judge a job in the USA and go after the rogues and posseurs who inhabit the halls of corporate America and Congress.] A number of other counts of fraud were left on file.
Men who do this kind of thing get movies made about them.  Two movies that I remember, specifically: one starring Tony Curtis as "The Great Imposter" - Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr.;  the other starring Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hanks "Catch Me If You Can" - about Frank Abagnale, Jr. Abagnale actually committed financial crimes - but he passed the bar exam legitimately in the state of Louisiana when he was only 19.  Hmmmm....

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