A WOMAN who fleeced the taxman out of £115,000 by claiming VAT refunds on a non-existent alpaca farm has been ordered to pay back just £214 or face a day in jail. 

Her partner who made the same amount through bogus refunds on the farm in Somerset will repay £95,000 or face nine months behind bars.

Caroline Beech and Patrick Ancill were both convicted of the VAT fraud, which they committed over a six year period from 2011 to 2017 when they were in fact living 160 miles away in a flat in Redruth, West Cornwall.

The swindle came to light when officers from HMRC visited Ash Tree Farm at Yarley, near Wells, and found no sign of either an alpaca trekking business or a mixed use farm.

They both received suspended jail sentences after being found guilty of fraud at Truro Crown Court last year, where Judge Anna Richardson ordered an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Mr Ian Graham, prosecuting, said it concluded that the total benefit was £230,000 but that Ancill’s available assets were £95,000 and Beech’s £214.

Judge Richardson ordered them to pay the amounts within three months during a short hearing at Truro Crown Court last week, setting terms of nine months and one day in default.

At the trial last year, Beech, aged 55, and Ancill, aged 67, of Trevassack Parc, Hayle, Cornwall, both denied the fraudulent evasion of VAT but were found guilty by a jury at Truro Crown Court.

Beech was jailed for ten months, suspended for 18 months, and a four month long night time curfew. Ancill was jailed for two years, suspended for 18 months.

The Judge at the trial described Ancill as 'domineering' and the venture as a 'complete fiction' and what they did was 'for financial gain clearly'.

The couple  claimed VAT refunds on purchases of £429,000 for equipment for the farm in every financial quarter over six years between 2011 and 2017 during which time their income was just £58,000.

They received £106,000 in rebates but their string of purchases for the apparently loss making business attracted the attention of investigators from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

They both told the jury they had been running a genuine mixed farming business and that all their claims for equipment were genuine.

The prosecuting claimed that they had ‘played the system’ and were actually living in a flat in Redruth, Cornwall, when they said they were running the farm.

The jury heard that Ancill claimed over six years that his sales were £39,000 but his purchases were £429,000, entitling him to rebates worth £70,000.

Beech reported sales of £19,000 over six years but this was set against purchases of £214,000, generating a £36,000 VAT refund.