Statcounter

4 Dec 2017

Recidivist family's blatant benefit fraud lasted seven years

A shameless Liverpool family at the head of a £400,000 benefit and tax fraud ring lived a jet-setting lifestyle while claiming they were unable to work.

Bernard Knutsen, 68, owned Chaplin’s Bar and a garage in Toxteth but dodged his taxes over a seven year period – while also claiming Income Support, Council Tax Benefit and later Pension Credit over a decade.

His wife, Maureen Knutsen, helped run his businesses and their daughter, Kelly Knutsen, helped her parents launder the excess cash – while the women also cheated the benefits system.

The scam came crashing down in April last year, when Bernard and Kelly were arrested in Liverpool and Maureen was picked up at Manchester Airport after yet another holiday to Las Vegas.

Police searching the couple’s home in Fell Street, Kensington, found £39,500 in cash, Rolex watches worth £15,000 and a number of gold sovereigns stashed in Bernard and Maureen’s bedroom.

Bernard was jailed for four years at Liverpool Crown Court after admitting three tax fraud and six benefit fraud offences, while Maureen, 63, was jailed for three years after a jury convicted her of benefit fraud and tax fraud.

Mum-of-five Kelly, 39, sobbed with relief as Judge Rachel Smith spared her from jail, sentencing her to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years, after she was convicted of money laundering and benefit fraud.

HMRC investigations also found that 10 employees at the garage, in Hill Street, and three staff at Chaplin’s, in Lodge Lane, had also been working while fraudulently claiming benefits.

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, said: “The fruits of Bernard Knutsen’s tax evasion enabled him and Maureen Knutsen to enjoy lavish holidays. During the trial, it emerged that the Knutsens had travelled to Dubai in March 2008 and March 2009 to attend the Dubai World Cup (horse racing event). The court will recall the aggrieved tones in which Maureen wrote her subsequent letter of complaint to the travel agents, expressing her dismay at the VIP treatment they had expected not being available to them.”

The couple’s tax-dodging scheme also netted them:

* Trips to the UAE and USA in 2010 followed by a dream trip to the Far East taking in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and India in March 2011.

* In November 2011, they jetted off to South Africa, followed by more trips to the USA in 2013 and then a holiday to Argentina, The Falklands and Antarctica in 2014 – all totalling £21,000

* A brand new £24,000 kitchen at their Fell Street Home.

Mr Slack told the court: “None of this affluence prevented Bernard Knutsen dishonestly claiming means-tested social security benefits.”

In total, the Knutsens evaded tax from their businesses to the tune of £278,000, while Bernard and Maureen received £85,000 in various benefits they were not entitled to.

Mr Slack said Bernard began claiming Income Support between 2004, when he claimed he had not worked since 2002 and was now unable to work due to diabetes, gout and spinal injuries.

He claimed to have no savings, no bank account and failed to declare his income from the garage or Chaplin’s bar, which he bought in 1999.

Between 2009 and 2014, the garage alone brought in over £1.7m revenue, making a profit of £321,000.

Kelly Knutsen failed to declare paid work at Chaplin’s bar and rental income from a property she owned, and illegally received £54,000 in benefits. She also allowed her bank account to be used to hide £50,000 from her parents' criminal activities.

The court heard the couple were no strangers to fraud, with Maureen jailed in 2005 for her role in a £1.6m scam involving a crooked Norwich Union worker – while Bernard was convicted of helping her launder money.

Christopher Stables, representing Bernard, told the court his client was in poor health having undergone surgery for both a benign brain tumour and bowel cancer in recent years.

He said: “Mr Knutsen feel a degree of responsibility for the predicament of his co-defendants, his wife and daughter, particularly his wife, and wishes me to make it absolutely clear he does not blame her and he knows he should take responsibility himself.”

Damian Nolan, representing Maureen, said his client suffered from arthritis and other conditions, and said she still had “positive elements to her character.”

Louise Santamera, representing Kelly, said her client suffered from anxiety and depression and was now £20,000 in debt relating to council tax arrears and credit cards.

She said Kelly’s five children would be hit hard if their mother and both grandparents were jailed.

Judge Rachel Smith, passing sentence, said: “This was a sophisticated fraud in the sense that property was purchased and placed in alternative names, important licensing and operating regulations were put into other names and money was moved around including in relation to Kelly Knutsen conviction of laundering the proceeds of the crimes of her parents.”

Kelly Knutsen was handed a three month curfew of between 10pm and 7am.

Source with pictures

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