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28 Apr 2017

Criminal scrap metal dealer also committed benefit fraud

A scrap metal dealer claimed benefits and failed to pay tax while his business was turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

Cardiff Crown Court was told more than £600,000 passed through Darren Jones’ bank account during the two years he was running Merthyr Metals Limited. Judge Jeremy Jenkins told him: “This was greed – pure and simple.” The court heard 50-year-old Jones should have paid around £25,000 in income tax and £93,000 in VAT between 2013 and 2015. Matthew Roberts, prosecuting, said the defendant also wrongly claimed about £17,000 in Employment and Support Allowance.

Prosecutors said the business, which was based in Georgetown, Merthyr Tydfil, involved buying scrap metal and selling it on. Mr Roberts said: “A substantial amount of income was being generated.”

The court heard Jones was not eligible for benefits, but wrongly stated on an application for Employment and Support Allowance that he was earning £93.30 a week.

Mr Roberts added: “This was a dishonest endeavour from the outset by this defendant.”

Prosecutors said his failure to pay tax and dishonest claim for benefits meant he gained more than £135,000 to which he was not entitled.

The court heard he had previous convictions for dishonestly dating back to the 1970s and was convicted last summer of theft and handling stolen goods.

Jones, from High Street in Merthyr Tydfil, admitted fraudulent evasion of income tax and VAT. He also pleaded guilty to failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in circumstances affecting his entitlement to benefits.

Laurence Jones, defending, told the court Merthyr Metals Limited was his client’s first business. He said: “He was not in any way, shape or form experienced in the way of business. He was completely na├»ve and inexperienced and he accepts wholly inadequate record keeping.”

Mr Jones said his client, a sole trader, invested money he had inherited into the business, which he has now lost. He added: “He is no astute businessman. He completely stuck his head in the sand. He had never run a business before and was clearly overwhelmed by the responsibility.”

The defence barrister told the court his client had been addicted to amphetamine, but is now drug-free. Mr Jones argued the defendant, a father-of-one, showed remorse through his guilty pleas.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Jenkins told the defendant: “When you were arrested by the police, you claimed that you had not made any profit at all. But the reality was something quite different. Between December 2013 and December 2015, more than £600,000 passed through your account. That is a staggering amount of money for a sole trading business operation.” He noted the company ran without any paperwork at all.

Judge Jenkins said it was “staggering” the defendant claimed benefits while operating a “highly profitable business”. The judge added: “You were claiming benefits while you were making money hand over fist. You claimed naivety, but you knew exactly what you were doing. In my judgement, this offending was so flagrant and dishonest from the outset that only a sentence of immediate custody can be justified.”

Jones was jailed for 26 months and a hearing will take place under the Proceeds of Crime Act on August 21.

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