Fraudster spent £1m of taxpayers' cash on luxury cars, Disneyland and Lego

Lee Hickinbottom and his £300 Lego set. See SWNS story SWMDlego; A Lego loving fraudster who spent more than £1m of taxpayers’ money on funding luxury cars, holidays and expensive Lego sets has been jailed for eight years.  Lee Hickinbottom, 49, conspired with his partner Tabatha Knott, 34, to work together to submit fraudulent VAT repayment claims to HMRC.  Hickinbottom used a fabricated transport business to claim most of the VAT in a claiming spree that lasted between 2014 – 2017.  Bogus Serenity Community Transport Ltd claimed £1,290,326.93 in VAT, relating to over £7m in fake invoicing.  The former lovers used the stolen cash to fund dream trips to Disneyland Paris and visited the Empire State Building in New York.
Lee Hickinbottom with a £300 Lego set he bought with money he defrauded. (SWNS)

A fraudster who spent more than £1m of taxpayers' money on luxury cars, lavish holidays and expensive Lego has been jailed for eight years.

Lee Hickinbottom, 49, and his former partner, Tabatha Knott, 34, submitted more than £7m worth of false invoices to HMRC for a fake community transport business to claim £1,290,326.93 in VAT.

They used the money to go on a spending spree between 2014 and 2017, taking trips to Disneyland Paris and New York.

The pair also spent hundreds of thousands revamping their Dudley home, which included £13,000 on a hot tub that had to be craned into position.

Hickinbottom, from Dudley, West Midlands, spent more than £250,000 on luxury cars, £4,220 supporting Everton Football club, £18,847 on iTunes, £15,925 on Apple products and £1,500 on expensive Lego sets.

HMRC officers uncovered the fraud when the claims were checked despite Hickinbottom’s attempts to hide his actions by transferring £346,512 to family and friends and sending £76,908 to Knott.

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In December 2020, Hickinbottom pleaded guilty to dishonestly claiming £28,000 of Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance between July 2013 and October 2016.

Hickinbottom and Knott were found guilty of VAT fraud on 25 March this year following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court. Knott was also convicted of money laundering offences.

Fraudster Lee Hickinbottom spent £250,000 on luxury cars. (SWNS)
Fraudster Lee Hickinbottom spent £250,000 on luxury cars. (SWNS)

Appearing at Birmingham Crown Court last Friday, Hickinbottom was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Knott was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years.

Nick Stone, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “This was a sustained attack on the tax system that funds the vital public services we all rely on.

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“Lee Hickinbottom stole from taxpayers to feed a love of Lego sets, luxury cars, and top of the range hot tubs.

"He was driven by greed. He enjoyed holidays and a lavish lifestyle that most honest, law-abiding taxpayers can only dream of.

Hickinbottom, 49, was jailed for eight years at Birmingham Crown Court. (PA)
Hickinbottom, 49, was jailed for eight years at Birmingham Crown Court. (PA)

“His sentence sends a very clear warning that we can and will bring tax fraudsters before the courts to face justice.

"We encourage anyone with information about any type of tax fraud or money laundering to report it to us online.”

Proceedings are now underway to recover the stolen money.