Gift Aid fraudster who spent thousands cruising the world jailed for 3 years
A charity treasurer who tried to steal more than £330,000 in a Gift Aid repayment fraud has been jailed for three years.
Dale Hicks, 35, of Cheadle, Stoke-on-Trent, abused his position at a Staffordshire based ex-offenders charity by lodging a string of false claims, an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation found.
The claims were made on behalf of the Life Keys (LK) charity, which was set up inside a Midland prison in 2009 to rehabilitate ex-offenders.
According to HMRC, Hicks made the claims between 2014 and 2016, and diverted the money into his own bank account, spending some of the proceeds on luxury holidays.
The charity is believed to have been unaware of Hicks’ activity and only became suspicious when large sums started arriving into the accounts, before they were moved on. Hicks lied about the payments but was asked to step down from his voluntary role in March 2016.
HMRC revealed that Hicks claimed more than £270,000 but the remaining £62,000 was withheld while investigations were carried out. Hicks is believed to have spent at least £76,000 on cruises and other holidays.
"This was not a momentary lapse. This was persistent, it was calculated and it was despicable. He betrayed the trust of colleagues at a genuine charity that was trying to help criminals turn their lives around," said Nick Stone, assistant director, fraud investigation service at HMRC.
"Dale Hicks spent this stolen money on himself and booked a string of luxury holidays that most hardworking people could only dream of. The taxpayer paid for these extravagant holidays, and he posted about them on social media."
HMRC launched an investigation in 2017 and discovered the amount falsely claimed would have required £1.3 million in legitimate donations. But the charity’s bank accounts showed nowhere near those amounts had been deposited.
Hicks also made false claims in the name of the charity’s chief executive, which were 30 times higher than the donations that had actually been made.
During interviews, Hicks claimed he had spent the money on good causes, including £10,000 handed to a local church and £8,000 for humanitarian aid in Romania. He also claimed that he spent the money taking “stressed out people” for dinner and on holidays.
Checks on his bank accounts proved that he spent £76,872 with just one travel firm. There was also further payments made directly to airlines and cruise companies.
Hicks was jailed for three years on 31 May 2019 at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court. He pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by false representation and two charges of producing false documents at the same court hearing.
Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business.