A high-flying businessman who masterminded a sophisticated £9.8 million international VAT fraud to fund his lavish lifestyle of flash cars and a luxury Spanish home, has been jailed for nine years.
Jason Butler, 46, formerly of Leeds, created hundreds of false invoices to steal millions of pounds in VAT and tried to hide the scam in a complex trading chain involving companies in the UK, Gibraltar, Spain and the US, an investigation by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
Butler, who now lives in Spain, told HMRC he bought almost £60 million worth of personal data, but checks revealed this was a lie.
In reality he was forging purchase invoices to falsely reclaim VAT and trading very cheap raw data through a complex international supply chain in a bid to hide his crimes.
Butler, who previously ran a number of companies in Yorkshire which were part of Jump Group Ltd, used money from the fraud to fund a vast portfolio of properties in Leeds, a luxury Spanish home, a collection of sports cars and a speedboat.
Eden Noblett, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC said:
“Butler thought he was clever and his scam too sophisticated to be uncovered. But, he was not as clever as he believed.
“This was a complex fraud involving offshore companies and moving money internationally. This case should serve as a warning to anyone considering stealing taxpayer’s money. No matter how clever and sophisticated you think your fraud is, we will catch you.
“Tax fraud takes money away from the vital public services we all use. Butler stole enough money to pay for more than 500 new NHS nurses. We will not allow anyone to steal funding from our schools and hospitals. Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Butler controlled a company called Multi Level Media (MLM), based at Britannia House in Leeds.
He said he bought and sold valuable Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) customer data from nine UK companies via an international agency which he also controlled, between November 2011 and January 2015.
However, checks with the companies revealed that no trade ever took place and Butler had created hundreds of phoney invoices.
Instead he was buying and selling cheap raw data to a series of firms in the UK, who then sold it to a respectable data company in Gibraltar.
The data was sold by them to a company in the US, which was also controlled by Butler.
Each step of the transaction chain was arranged and controlled by Butler.
He created this series of transactions to try and hide his fraud by involving several companies, some of which had an established tax history with HMRC.
On paper it appeared the fraudster had paid substantial amounts of VAT.
But the purchases were fake and backed up by forged invoices, which he used to falsely reclaim £9,875,806 in VAT.
Butler used money from the fraud to fund his collection of supercars including; Ferrari Fiorano FI, Ferrari 360, Mercedes SL350, and a Lamborghini Murcielago.
He also owned a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, speedboat, a luxurious home in Marbella and 96 properties in Leeds.
He was arrested by police at Manchester International Airport when he arrived into the UK from Malaga on 18 January 2015.
Butler was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of VAT fraud after a trial. He was sentenced to nine years in prison at the same court today.
Proceedings are now underway to recover the stolen money.
In 2003, the Yorkshire Post interviewed Butler - then a successful 31-year-old entrepreneur who had set up a property business at the age of 22.
Butler, whose parents ran a pub in Masham in the Dales, told our reporter that he bought a Ferrari for £75,000 when he was 23.
Jump's business model helped first-time buyers who were struggling to raise a deposit get onto the property ladder. He founded the firm in 1995 as Homestarter, arranging 95 per cent mortgages for young buyers. Vendors were offered a fixed price that included financial, legal and estate agency services.
He claimed he planned to retire by the age of 35, and set out his ambition of eventually opening 80 branches of Jump across the UK.
"There are some things you are born with. Fast cars are in my blood. I have been driving my parents mad about them since I was two.
"I would like to retire by the time I'm 35. I'm a big believer in goal-setting. I'll do something in property ... or possibly selling high-class, expensive Ferraris to high net-worth individuals. But whatever I do, I would like to do it at my leisure."