Fraudsters jailed following ‘biggest payroll fraud UK has ever seen’

The perpetrators, who ran Central Payroll Specialists, which was later rebranded as Quality Premier Services, have been jailed for nearly 30 years.

In the largest tax scam of its kind in UK history, a family of fraudsters who pocketed more than £45 million have been jailed for a total of 27-and-a-half years between them.

Essex Police is now seeking to recover as much of the cash as possible from Geoffrey, Joshua and Andrew Copp, who ran Central Payroll Specialists (CPS), which was later rebranded as Quality Premier Services (QPS) and was based in Croxley Heath, near Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire.

As umbrella payroll companies, CPS and QPS were taken on by recruitment agencies to manage the wages of thousands of temporary workers. As a result, they issued the agencies with invoices that included VAT payments of 20%.

But the trio declared that their companies made sales of under £20 million instead of the true amount of £250 million and did not pass the VAT they received from the agencies on to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Instead they used the money to fund lavish lifestyles, which included buying expensive houses, luxury cars, travel on private jets and gambling.

Essex Police and HMRC found that the companies paid just under £4 million in VAT between September 2012 and 2015, which meant that up to £46 million remained unpaid. Tax records also showed that father Geoffrey and his son Joshua paid no income tax at all between 2009 and 2015, while brother Andrew paid £15,930.

Detective chief inspector Josie Hayes told the local Comet newspaper that the “sophisticated” scheme was a “highly organised payroll fraud, on a scale never before seen in the UK”.

The scam came to light following a tip-off to Essex Police, which resulted in an investigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, with the assistance of HMRC’s Criminal Taxes Unit.

The three fraudsters were charged with conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, money laundering and conspiring to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property in March 2016. After standing trial at Wood Green Crown Court in London on 4 April, a jury found them guilty in early June.