Conman spent more than £1m of taxpayers' cash on flash cars, dream holidays – and £1,500 worth of LEGO

A CONMAN splashed out more than £1million of taxpayers' cash on flash cars, dream holidays and £1,500 worth of Lego.

Bogus transport firm boss Lee Hickinbottom from Dudley, West Mids, conspired with his ex-partner Tabatha Knott to submit fraudulent VAT repayment claims to HMRC.


Hickinbottom submitted most of the claims for his fabricated business, Serenity Community Transport, and provided fake invoices.

The 49-year-old also admitted benefit fraud totalling £28,000.

He and former lover Knott, 34, used the stolen money to fund trips to Disneyland, Paris and New York.

They also paid £120,000 in cash to buy their house in Dudley and a further £127,000 on home improvements – including almost £28,000 on a luxury kitchen and more than £13,000 on a hot tub.

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Hickinbottom also bought £20,000 of shares in a confectionary company, spent £4,220 supporting Everton Football Club and treated himself to more than £1,500 worth of Lego build kits for The Avengers, Batman and Tower Bridge in London.

HMRC officers uncovered the fraud when the claims, submitted between 2014 and 2017, were checked.

In a failed attempt to hide his crimes, Hickinbottom moved cash between numerous personal bank accounts set up in his own name.

Other attempts included transferring £346,512 to family and friends, sending £76,908 to Knott.

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His banking records proved that he spent more than £250,000 on a fleet of flash cars, including £83,157 on a Jaguar F pace, £57,820 on two Jaguar XFs and £62,089 on a Land Rover Defender. Two of the cars had personalised plates.

Other lavish lifestyle purchases included a whopping £18,847 on iTunes, £15,925 on Apple products and more than £1,000 on trips to Alton Towers.

During a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court in December 2020, Hickinbottom pleaded guilty to dishonestly claiming £28,000 in Job Seekers' Allowance and Employment Support Allowance between July 2013 and October 2016.

The pair were found guilty of VAT fraud on Friday following a trial. Knott was also convicted of money laundering offences.

Anamarie Coomansingh, of the Crown Prosecution Service, added: "Taxpayers’ money, which should have been spent on vital public services such as the NHS, education and social care, was instead used to fund the unearned and extravagant lifestyle these defendants enjoyed.

“The CPS will be inviting the court to put in place measures to prevent Lee Hickinbottom, a career criminal, from committing similar offences in the future.

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"We will also be pursuing confiscation proceedings against all three defendants, to strip them of any money from their criminal activity.”

Lee Hickinbottom has been remanded into custody ahead of sentencing, which is scheduled for May. Confiscation proceedings are underway to recover the stolen money.

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