A film-maker who stole public money to spend £85,000 on gambling and thousands more on lavish holidays has been jailed for 32 months.
Melanie Provan, 50, from west London, conned cash from the taxman and spent £50,000 on trips to Nice, Cannes, America and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, staying in five-star hotels. She spent thousands on business expenses, including £8,500 on taxis alone.
As a director of Genius Media Limited, based in Gloucester Place, she submitted 39 fraudulent VAT returns to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over five years, totalling £528,423.21.
HMRC launched an investigation after she repeatedly contacted call centres demanding payouts on her false VAT repayments so she could finance a film crew’s trip to Africa.
After being contacted by HMRC, Provan tampered with invoices and bank statements to try and cover her tracks. Following a raid on her house, officers found a mobile phone with a text message: “Really worried about VAT repayment, was relying on that for spending money.”
Chris Gill, Assistant Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said:
‘‘Provan believed she could use taxpayer’s money to live the movie star lifestyle, without considering the consequences.
“She provided false documents to HMRC officers on a number of occasions to deliberately deceive and obtain thousands of pounds to which she was not entitled.
“She then used the money on gambling, expensive holidays and business expenses.
“People who steal money from the taxpayer in this way deny funds for all public facilities from schools and hospitals to policing and meals on wheels. HMRC will relentlessly pursue those who seek to take unfair advantage in this way.’’
Provan initially denied four charges of VAT fraud but pleaded guilty at a later hearing at Southwark Crown Court on 1 November, 2017. She was sentenced at the same court on 27 November.
His Honour Judge Michael Hopmeier said Provan was motivated by ‘pure greed’ and added: “She was stealing for herself. It was persistent, calculated and well-planned. She was arrogant and told deliberate lies.”
To report a suspected fraud, contact the HMRC hotline on 0800 788 887.