Elizabeth Lewis Scam £885,000, Cardiff couple Mark and Elizabeth Lewis have today (Friday 1 November) been sentenced for their parts in a large scale Gift Aid fraud believed to have cost the public revenue £885,000. Mark Lewis was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and his wife Elizabeth Lewis was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years.
Cardiff Crown Court heard that Mark Lewis devised and executed the fraudulent scheme, while he and his wife Elizabeth laundered the proceeds through a variety of means, including the purchase of two properties. Mark Lewis generated the profits by establishing a legitimate charity, the Welsh Independent School of Climbing and Mountaineering, and making false claims on its behalf for a type of charitable tax relief called Gift Aid, which allows a charity to claim the income tax paid by a donor on the sum that they are giving. It was found however, that the donations on which they claimed tax relief were vastly exaggerated.
Christopher Tarrant, a specialist fraud lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Mark Lewis used the guise of a legitimate charity to carry out a cynical and dishonest fraud against the public purse.
“He made a total of thirteen fraudulent Gift Aid claims to HMRC, pretending to have received £3,000,000 in donations, when in fact he had raised little more than a few hundred pounds via bucket collections.
“His wife Elizabeth willingly helped him launder the proceeds of the fraud, purchasing two properties outright, which they then rented out for profit, and financing some 27 other companies that the couple registered with Companies House.
“Elizabeth Lewis’s claim not to know about fraudulent income was farcical: she had been a fraud investigator for many years and had extensive experience investigating exactly the sort of offence that her husband was committing.
“This was a fraud that abused a system designed to benefit legitimate charities and there was a strong public interest in bringing a criminal prosecution against those responsible.”
Mark Lewis pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements with intent to defraud the public revenue, four counts of acquiring, using or possessing criminal property and two counts of converting criminal property contrary to section 329(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Elizabeth Lewis was convicted after trial of three counts of acquiring, using or possessing criminal property and one count of converting criminal property contrary to section 329(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.