"Fantasist" Jailed For Fraud

A "fantasist'' who used 15 identities to steal £118,000 by falsely claiming VAT refunds has been jailed for six years.

Alison Reynolds, 48, stole the identities of work colleagues, friends and even used a credit card in her mother's name to set up theatrical companies in the five-year scam, Southampton Crown Court was told.

One of the companies based in Manchester was aptly called the Myths and Mirrors Theatre company.

Cairns Nelson QC, prosecuting, said it was doubtful the firms took part in legitimate business and they were vehicles to commit fraud using false invoices to try and fool the authorities.

Reynolds, formerly from Lymington in Hampshire, had previous convictions for dishonesty dating back to 1987 and had used 32 different names and 13 different dates of birth in total during her criminal career, the court heard.

Mr Nelson described the offences from 2003 until 2008 as "breathtakingly dishonest'', well-planned and complex.

"What's clear from this case is that the defendant is a dishonest fantasist,'' he told the court.

When police raided a clothes shop Reynolds owned called Belle Gray, in Lymington in 2008, HMRC officers found passports and driving licences in a number of names.

Reynolds had even worked as a PA at a firm of solicitors called Warner & Richardson under the name Jessica Maynard and stolen an official stamp and headed paper to help her dupe the VAT man.

They also discovered To Do lists with a reminder of "VAT invoices to fake'', and a letter on headed paper from one bogus firm that said one of her aliases had gone missing in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

Reynolds, who was born Virginia Povall in Amersham, Bucks, also set up a firm in Bristol called Plan B Theatre, Dreamweavers Theatre Company in Sheffield and Gossamer Web in Romsey to commit the frauds.

She pleaded guilty in November last year to four counts of cheating the public revenue and four counts of forgery and fraud which included possessing a fake UK driving licence and a forged document to change her name.

Judge Peter Ralls QC told the court:

"What stands out in this case is the quite extraordinary level of planning and preparation and the staggering level of dishonesty.

"I am not sure I have been involved in a case that has such persistent and detailed fraudulent activity.''

He told Reynolds she had used "the public purse as her own private piggy bank".

"You set out to defraud the public purse by claiming back sums of VAT you were not entitled to.''

The judge also jailed Reynolds for a further 12 months to run consecutively for separate offences of perverting the course of justice by submitting a false declaration to try and avoid a parking fine issued in Nottingham in 2002 and breaching a restraining order.

He also disqualified her from being a company director.

Alison Reynolds in two different guises