‘GREEDY’ fraudsters from Shipston have been jailed for their part in a series of cons which saw them try to buy Hartlepool United Football Club.
Stephen Robert Murrall, 49, of New Street in Shipston and Peter Graham Harris, aged 47, of Watery Lane were the subjects of a two-year police and HM revenue and customs investigation (HMRC).
The investigation began in 2015 after an unknown company reported they loaned £500,000 to Murrall on the pretence he had a contract with the Maltese government.
More offences came to light including a false invoice for entertainment at a Banbury nightclub ran by Murrall. He had produced the invoice for entertainment supposedly provided by 61-year-old Henry Kerr from Vienna, Austria. The court heard no entertainment had been provided and it was part of an attempt to fraudulently obtain £24,000 in VAT from HMRC.
In a separate incident that year, Kerr, Murrall and Harris forged invoices to obtain more than £90,000 from another man.
Murrall and Harris also attempted to purchase Hartlepool United Football Club. They fraudulently obtained £50,000 from a company telling them they needed the money to satisfy the football league when in fact they needed it to replace money they had already taken from the club’s accounts.
Detectives also found evidence of an attempt to obtain a repayment of some £850,000 from HMRC using fraudulent invoices.
On Tuesday (November 7) Warwick Crown Court heard how Murrall forged a number of bogus bank statements and invoices which officers found on his computer.
Murrall pleaded not guilty to five counts of fraud but the jury found him guilty of all counts. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and disqualified from being a company director for nine years.
Harris pleaded not guilty to three counts of fraud but the jury found him guilty on two counts and not guilty on one. He was sentenced to two years and six months in prison and disqualified from being a company director for six years.
Kerr had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and was given a 24 month suspended sentence.
Det Cons Jenny Baker of Warwickshire Police said: “This type of large scale business and tax fraud sometimes seems detached from real life, but this is not the case. It is the offence at Hartlepool United, a football club at the heart of a community, that demonstrates the impact this type of offending has on members of the public from all walks of life.”
A spokesman from HMRC said: “These men were greedy. Murrall in particular selfishly attempted to steal money that should have been used to fund vital public services and they must now pay the price for their dishonesty.
“This is the culmination of a painstaking investigation into businessmen who thought they were above the law.”
Anyone concerned about fraudulent activity can visit www.actionfraud.police.uk to report it or find out more.