Businessman Engages in £1 Million Tax Fraud, Loses It All Gambling

  • UK man multiplied business revenue by 10 to receive monthly VAT refund of £9,000
  • Used funds to gamble nearly £700,000 through online casinos
  • Remaining money spent mostly on slot machines and horse race betting
  • Fraud discovered after eight years, resulting in three-year prison sentence
using calculator and checking invoice documents with magnifying glass
A UK businessman was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for engaging in a £1m tax fraud scheme to feed his gambling habit. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

An eight-year-long scam

The owner of a market stall in the United Kingdom is now in jail for engaging in VAT fraud totaling £1m ($1.22m) and spending all of the money gambling. 

monthly VAT refunds of £9,000 from the revenue commissioners

Terence Sickelmore was inflating his revenue figures for his Dairy World business in the Exmouth Market. The revenue figures were multiplied by ten, after which he would file VAT claims online. This saw him get monthly VAT refunds of £9,000 ($11,000) from the revenue commissioners. He managed to pull this scam for eight years.

The reason he got away with this fraud for so long was that he knew that the authorities did not check rebates lower than £10,000 ($12,200) in a monthly period. Therefore, he was able to scam £913,729 ($1.1m) over the course of eight years from the taxmen. 

The 55-year-old man was caught when one assessor noticed that the revenue figure in his income tax self-assessment was lower than that stated in his VAT claims by a multiple of ten. 

Gambling addiction at its source

Sickelmore says the reason he began this scam was his gambling addiction, which he developed in 2010. Before going to work at his stall every day, he would go into the bookies and gamble. After finishing work, he would spend the night gambling at online casinos. 

Due to this fraudulent scheme, Sickelmore lost his marriage, his business, and his home. He plans to tour around the school circuit on his release from jail to educate young people about the dangers of gambling. 

Sickelmore lost his marriage, his business, and his home

As a result of his bankruptcy and unemployment, Sickelmore will not be able to pay back what he stole. 

Three-year imprisonment

The accused pleaded guilty to VAT fraud at the Exeter Crown Court and was jailed for three years.

Judge Timothy Rose sympathized with the fact that Sickelmore was in the grips of a genuine gambling addiction. He said: “You gambled online, in betting shops and other sources and were gambling in the region of £9,000 a month in a fairly unsophisticated way, primarily in games of pure chance with no particular expertise involved.”

As soon as Sickelmore learned he was under investigation for VAT fraud, he admitted to his scam. Most of the money was lost through gambling, as evidenced by his bank accounts.

Sickelmore’s bank accounts show how he lost nearly £700,000 ($854,000) at online casinos. The rest of the money was taken out as cash and used on slot machines or to bet on horse races. 

The only thing Sickelmore could think about was gambling. He is now a member of Gamblers Anonymous and is working with the Gambling with Lives charity.