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Fraudster gets 17 years for £34m scam

(c) Sky News 2012

A Solihull man who stole millions in PAYE employee tax has received one of the longest fraud sentences in British history.

Thomas Scragg, from Hockley Heath, was jailed for a total of 17 years following three separate fraud convictions.

The extent of his fraud racket has remained a secret until now as cases against his two henchmen - Carl and Anthony Johnson from Wolverhampton - progressed through court.

But reporting restrictions were lifted after the brothers were convicted of laundering Scragg's ill-gotten gains.

Scragg used his business "Moya Payroll" - which managed staff wages from construction industry companies - to steal more than £26m in tax between 2002 and 2007.

His co-defendant, 60-year-old Paul Phillips of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, was jailed for nine years. Another nine people were also convicted for their parts in the criminal enterprise.

A further investigation by West Midlands Police uncovered another £8m of stolen PAYE tax in a 10-month period from April 2007.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how Carl Johnson, 49, and brother Anthony, 51, lived extravagant lifestyles using money they received from Scragg in return for their "protection services".

In total he paid the brothers - who had a string of convictions for violence and witness intimidation - around £2.4m.

All three men spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on luxury hotels in London and regularly ran up massive bills in local restaurants.

The notorious Johnson brothers kitted out their homes with state-of-the art security equipment.

Carl had bulletproof glass put in his home, while Anthony rebuilt his house - installing a home cinema, a stables and a kennels.

They also drove around in expensive cars including a Lamborghini Murcielago, Bentley Continental, Porsche Cayenne and Ferrari Spider.

Both brothers claimed their wealth came from running a legitimate security business - called Unit (Berlin: UN7.BE - news) 11 - but the company paid nothing in tax to HMRC.

Sky News' Alistair Bunkall said: "Only one person has received a longer sentence for fraud in Britain. The reason it came to light was because of the extravagant lifestyle of the brothers."

Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Edwards from West Midlands Police said: "This was fraud and money laundering on a massive scale.

"It deprived the public purse of millions of pounds and Scragg's audacity is shown by the fact he continued the fraud in various guises even after he knew he was being investigated.

"Carl and Anthony Johnson flaunted their wealth for the local Wolverhampton community to see - which is what ultimately led to their downfall.

"They were once heard to joke 'crime does pay'. They now have plenty of time behind bars to reconsider this opinion."