Haverhill business man jailed for hiding ‘dirty money’

Stephen Oakley, centre, with his wife Lorraine,  left, arriving at Birmingham Crown Court.  (Photo by Mathew Growcoot / Newsteam) ANL-140429-130303005
Stephen Oakley, centre, with his wife Lorraine, left, arriving at Birmingham Crown Court. (Photo by Mathew Growcoot / Newsteam) ANL-140429-130303005

A convicted tax cheat has been jailed for working with his wife to try and hide his illicit fortune in a network of personal and business bank accounts.

Stephen Oakley moved hundreds of thousands of pounds between accounts – some under his wife’s name – in a bid to throw detectives off the trail and thwart attempts to recover the stolen cash and put it back into the public purse.

However, determined officers from the West Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) soon uncovered the scam and brought further charges.

The original case began when Stephen Oakley was found to be complicit in a £34m tax fraud masterminded by notorious Solihull conman Thomas ‘Tommy’ Scragg – who is currently service a 17 year sentence after being jailed in 2012.

Oakley admitted conspiracy to cheat HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in March 2011 as part of that inquiry and was given a suspended prison sentence.

But despite escaping jail, he couldn’t face the thought of losing his ill-gotten cash to police, who had started confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

So the 58-year-old, from Little Wratting, worked with his wife Lorraine, 58, to devise a scheme to preserve as much of the dirty money as possible.

An investigation by the West Midlands RART and HMRC uncovered the fraud and the pair were arrested and subsequently charged.

Both were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud following a five day trial at Birmingham Crown Court in March. Oakley, who ran a number of business in Haverhill, including HSS Vulcan Ltd and Vulcan Services and Supply Company, was also found guilty of three counts of perverting the course of justice.

He was jailed for two years at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday (April 25). Lorraine was given a nine month prison sentence suspended for 12 months and was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.

Confiscation proceedings, despite the pair’s attempts to launder the cash, are on-going.

Detective Sergeant Derek Tinsley said: “Stephen Oakley, along with many others involved in the original racket, had cheated the tax payer out of a significant amount of cash.

“It was our job to impose restraints on their finances and to investigate exactly how much they were able to obtain as a result of the scam.

“But he thought he could get around this legal process by working with his wife Lorraine to move the cash between different accounts, using their business in Suffolk as a cover.

“The problem for them was that there’s always an audit trail and as a result of close work with HMRC we were able quickly catch on to what they were doing and bring further charges.”

“Confiscation and forfeiture orders strike right at the heart of the principal motivation for organised crime - money.

“We will never rest on our laurels as we continue to seek new opportunities to remove assets from offenders.”