A Perthshire businessman forged paperwork to steal tens of thousands of pounds from the taxman.
Robert MacGregor, who set up property firm Gleneagles Homes in 2016, tricked HM Revenue and Customs into paying him £43,150.
The 52-year-old director, who admitted a “particularly poor” grasp of finances, falsified paperwork and submitted fake invoices as part of the scam, which ran for nearly a year from July 2016.
MacGregor, of Brookfield House, Blackford, appeared at Perth Sheriff Court and admitted conning HMRC into paying him money to which he was not entitled.
He also admitted trying to defraud HMRC into paying him £37,085 between March 1 and August 21 2017.
HMRC claimed in a statement after the court case that MacGregor’s business was “just a vessel for fraud,” however his solicitor said during Wednesday’s hearing that it was a legitimate firm.
Sheriff Richard McFarlane told the father-of-three he was “only just” persuaded not to send him to prison.
The court heard HMRC launched a probe into MacGregor after he submitted documents to back up two rebate claims.
The tax office quickly established invoices he had sent were fake.
“I am told you have shown remorse,” Sheriff McFarlane told MacGregor.
“Well, you have shown remorse because you were found out.”
He said: “There is a very clear course of criminal conduct and deceit, producing a result – namely a payment to you in excess of £43,000.
“I am persuaded – but only just – that I can look at an alternative to custody.”
MacGregor was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
He will be supervised for a year.
Fiscal depute Elizabeth Hodgson said MacGregor set up his company, Gleneagles Homes – completely unrelated to the Gleneagles Hotel and estate – on May 27, 2016 and registered for VAT in July.
He successfully applied for rebates twice, the court heard.
“After the second payment, HMRC requested supporting documentation for the two rebates,” said Ms Hodgson.
MacGregor responded with several documents, including invoices purported to be from a trade supplier, invoices for a vehicle that appeared to have been bought by people with no connection to the company and a building warrant.
“Having received the invoices, HMRC began investigating,” said Ms Hodgson.
MacGregor told the tax office that he had bought a £68,000 motorhome from a local dealer, and claimed £11,352 in VAT.
The motorhome dealer explained to investigators that he had not invoiced MacGregor, and the papers appeared to be forgeries.
Ms Hodgson said: “Further investigation of the building warrant showed that, although the warrant was genuine, it was in respect of outline planning permission that had not been acted on and had lapsed.”
She said: “The owner of the land had never entered into any kind of contract or discussions with Mr MacGregor.”
HMRC confirmed the illegally-claimed funds have since been repaid in full.
Lacked the skills for business
Solicitor Iain Kerr said his client had shown “genuine remorse” and there were “extenuating” circumstances behind his offending.
“He has taken active steps to address the harm that his conduct has caused,” he said.
Mr Kerr said his client set up Gleneagles Homes, before expanding with Gleneagles Services to incorporate demolition work.
“Unfortunately, Mr MacGregor lacked the relative skills to make these business successful,” he said.
“His finances were particularly poor.”
Both companies have been since wound up, the court was told.
“He does not offer any justification or excuse for his conduct,” said Mr Kerr.
“He acknowledges that this is a serious offence.”
The court heard MacGregor now runs a company that helps people deal with insolvency issues.
Lynsey Thompson, operational lead at the HMRC’s fraud investigation service said: “MacGregor’s selfish crimes were conducted with the sole aim of lining his pockets with cash.
“This is money that should have been helping fund our public services that we rely on, such as hospitals, schools and the emergency services.”