£3m tax credit fraudster jailed for five years

THE CENTRAL member of a gang who stole more than £3m of tax credits was yesterday jailed at the Old Bailey for five years, following an international investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Lithuanian Ricardas Virokaitis, 37, of Eltham, south-east London, was the linchpin of a gang who paid eastern European women to come to the UK solely to register for benefits and tax credits, according to HMRC.

Virokaitis and his criminal colleagues escorted the women while they gained the necessary documentation to claim the fraudulent benefits. The women then returned to their home country and the gang accessed their payments via bogus bank accounts. Virokaitis deliberately recruited women with children in order to maximise the amounts paid to each account, HMRC said.

More than 100 women were fraudulently registered for benefits and tax credits, according to HMRC. This enabled Virokaitis’s gang to steal over £3 million in bogus tax credit and benefit payments. Before he was arrested Virokaitis was withdrawing up to £90,000 every month from these bogus accounts.

Virokaitis was arrested in September last year at Stansted airport, while attempting to flee the country on a flight to Lithuania. HMRC officers uncovered a safe house used by the gang in south-east London, where they found 93 bank cards and false identity documents hidden under the floorboards.

Simon Grunwell, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: “Criminal gangs such as this are a menace who steal from honest taxpayers. HMRC is cracking down on fraud in the benefits system and the government has made a further £900 million available to us for tackling evasion, avoidance and attacks by criminal gangs.”

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