Fraudster spent £1,000,000 of taxpayers’ cash on cars, holidays and toys

A fraudster spent more than £1 million of taxpayers’ cash on luxury cars, dream holidays, a hot tub — and Lego.

Lee Hickinbottom, 49, and his partner submitted more than £7 million of false VAT documents from a fake community transport business to claim payments from HMRC.

He and Tabatha Knott, 34, visited Disneyland Paris and the Empire State building in New York, and revamped their home in Dudley, including by craning in a £13,000 hot tub.

Hickinbottom spent £250,000 on luxury cars, £4,220 supporting Everton FC, £15,925 on Apple products and £1,500 on Lego sets.

He tried to cover the crimes by transferring £346,512 to family and friends and sent £76,908 to Knott.

She and Hickinbottom — who also admitted falsely claiming £28,000 benefits — were found guilty of VAT fraud at Birmingham crown court.

Knott was also convicted of money laundering offences.

Hickinbottom was given eight years in jail, while Knott was given 18 months, suspended for two years.

Nick Stone, of the HMRC fraud unit, said: ‘This was a sustained attack on the tax system that funds the vital public services we all rely on.

‘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.’

Proceedings are under way to recover the stolen money.

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