Self-styled U-boat captain Richard Williams cheated the taxman of more than £1m but still maintained his lavish and eccentric lifestyle by claiming State benefits.
Fifty five-year-old ‘Captain’ Williams appeared at the helm of a replica Second World War German submarine while claiming unemployment and disability benefits, a court was told.
They had been watching me for some time
And while cheating the taxman he drove a Mercedes car with the number plate VAT 100.
Now Williams – also known as Stephen Howarth – faces jail after HMRC investigators ended his four year scam.
A spokeswoman for HMRC said: “He thought he was off our radar but, as he now finds, he was very much on it.”
Williams indulged his passion for boats by spending £50,000 converting a canal narrow boat into a U-boat complete with torpedo tubes, a periscope and a panelled State room.
He also paid for a private jet to take his partner to Paris to buy rolls of bespoke wallpaper
At his North Shore home he converted his lounge into a replica of the Presidential Oval Office.
But the sophisticated fraud which funded his Champagne life and that of co-accused Laurel Howarth was eventually smashed by VAT staff who raided the ‘submarine’ in the early hours of the morning when it was moored outside the Royal Armouries at Leeds.
Six months earlier Williams had been spotted moored in Liverpool dressed in full German submarine commander regalia.
HMRC’s investigation revealed Williams had illegally gained £1,017,000 with his partner’s assistance.
They had claimed back VAT on the nonexistent sales of beds for the disabled.
Williams admitted cheating the public revenue by claiming back VAT based on false VAT returns and fraudulent invoices for a company called Sleepability. In an 11 month period he illicitly received £345,549.
The second charge involved his firm Ortho-matic which netted him £416,700 using the same scam.
The third charge related to Discount Mobility Stodre a firm he based in Workington,Cumbria and netted him £257,255.
Williams pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to having articles to be used in connection with fraud-namely false invoices.
Initially his partner Laurel Howarth, 28, denied the offences but later changed her pleas admitting three offences of recklessly sending Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue false VAT returns in connection with Ortho-matic, Discount Mobility Store and a firm called Adjustabed.
Williams was warned he faces a prison term. Sentence was delayed after the court ordered Probation Service reports to be prepared on him.
During the period of his fraud when he thought VAT inspectors were to attend his premises Williams would hire people to work in false “call centres” in rented offices to give credence to his selling business.
After the hearing Williams said:”I have got used to the idea I am going to prison but it will have to be one where I can use my mobility chair.”
“I was fast asleep on my submarine when the Customs men boarded and arrested me.
“They had been watching me for some time they said.”