From Paris to New York via Dudley: How £1.3 million conman lived lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense

Lee Hickinbottom spent some of his illegal money on luxury cars and Lego

Lee Hickinbottom set up a fake business and conspired with his then-partner Tabatha Knott to submit a fake VAT refund claim to HM Revenue and Customs between 2014 and 2017.

Hickinbottom, 49, of Wolverhampton Street, Dudley, filed now of the claims for his fabricated business Serenity Community Transport and provided false invoices for the firm.

He also admitted the benefit of fraud totaling £ 28,000.

Hickinbottom and ex-girlfriend Knott, of Bennett Avenue, Dudley, spent Stolen’s cash on luxury cars and dream holidays, visiting Disneyland, the Louvre in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York.

The pair paid £ 120,000 in cash to buy their house in Dudley and a further £ 127,000 on home Improvements, including £ 22,741 on a luxury, high-end kitchen, which featured a £ 3,000 Italian granite work surface, and more than £ 13,000 on a deluxe hot tub that had to be installed with a crane.

Hickinbottom also bought £ 20,000 of shares in a confectionary company and spent around £ 1,500 on toys.

Some of Lee Hickinbottom’s cars, including a private number plate

HMRC officers Uncovered the fraud when the claims were checked.

Hickinbottom moved cash between numerous personal bank accounts he had set up in his own name in a failed attempt to hide his criminality

Other attempts included transferring more than £ 346,000 to family and friends, sending £ 76,908 to Knott.

  • £ 346,512 was sent to friends and family including nearly £ 77k to his then-partner

  • £ 250,000 was spent on cars including a Jaguar F Pace, Jaguar XFs and a Land Rover Defender

  • £ 127,000 is revamping his Dudley home, including £ 22k on a kitchen and £ 13k on a hot tub

  • £ 20,000 worth of shares in a sweet company

  • £ 15,925 is Apple products

  • £ 4,220 following Everton FC including £ 970 on season tickets

His banking records proved that they spent more than £ 250,000 on a Fleet of flash cars, including £ 83,157 on a Jaguar F Pace, £ 57,820 on two Jaguar XFs and £ 62,089 on a Land Rover Defender.

Other lifestyle purchases included £ 18,847 spent on iTunes, £ 15,925 on Apple products, more than £ 1,000 on trips to Alton Towers and £ 4,220 spent supporting Everton Football club, including £ 970 on a pair of season tickets for him and Knott.

Hickinbottom also splashed out more than £ 1,500 on Lego and treated himself to build kits for The Avengers, Batman and Tower Bridge in London.

During a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court, 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.

Some of Lee Hickinbottom’s cars, including a private number plate

Hickinbottom and Knott were found guilty of VAT fraud on Friday following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court, where they will be sentenced on May 20. Hickinbottom was remanded in custody until then.

Knott was also convicted of money laundering offenses and Hickinbottom’s Younger brother David, 37 and of Bolton Rise, Tipton, admitted failing to account for VAT charged to customers.

Anamarie Coomansingh, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Taxpayers’ money, which should have been spent on Vital public services such as the NHS, education and social care was instead used to fund the unearned and extravagant lifestyle these defendants enjoyed.

“The CPS will be inviting the court to put in place measures to prevent Lee Hickinbottom, a career criminal, from committing similar offenses in the future. We will also be in pursuing confiscation proceedings. “

Nick Stone, Assistant Director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, added: “Lee Hickinbottom and his former partner used Stolen taxpayers’ cash to fund a lavish lifestyle that included hot tubs, holidays and home improvements they could not legitimately afford.

“The majority of businesses and individuals pay the tax that is due, but we will relentlessly pursue the determined minority who refuse to play by the rules.”

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