Downfall of brothers after £7m tax fraud paid for boats, cars and holiday homes

A pair of brothers who stole more than £7m in a tax fraud scam are now facing lengthy prison sentences.

Mark Stead, 49, built a life of luxury with the swindled gains, spending the cash on boats, caravans, holiday homes and private schooling for his children.

The construction boss also roped four other people, including his wife and his brother, David Stead, into his money-grabbing scheme.

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David Stead, 61, was also told he faces prison when the brothers appeared at Hull Crown Court on Friday (June 2) alongside Mark Stead’s wife Jennifer Everett, 44, Denise Milestone, 61, and Benjamin Wragg, 32.

All had previously pleaded guilty to fraud charges except for David Stead, who was convicted following a trial.

Mark Stead ran the construction installation firms Pink Innovations and Pink Services Ltd, which traded from its premises in Hull and in the village of Laceby, about five miles from Grimsby.

From 2010 to 2018, Mark Stead took more than £7m by dodging tax at both companies. Nearly £7m came from failing to pay VAT and a further nearly £250,000 was taken by deducting national insurance from his employees' pay without passing it on to Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Between July 2015 and July 2017, Mark Stead, of Ulceby, near Grimsby, brought in his wife and his brother, his personal assistant Milestone, and Wragg, an IT consultant, to falsify documents or lie on his behalf after HMRC came to inspect his company's records.

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Mark Stead and his wife, also of Ulceby, were the only people involved in the scam to significantly gain financially from it. Milestone and Wragg received a salary for their work and David Stead made no major financial gains.

David Stead, of Stoke-on-Trent, managed the company for two years between 2015-2017, during which time he falsified purchase lists and invoices.

The others provided or passed on false documents such as bank statements, invoices or employee records.

Simon Gledhill, prosecuting, said: "When a review was to be carried out by HMRC in June 2017, that prompted a flurry of activity by those at the company in the preparation of false documents to justify the false VAT claims."

Milestone also falsely claimed Mark Stead was in hospital so that he wouldn't have to speak to HMRC compliance officers.

"On another visit, Mark Stead asked Ms Milestone to 'take care of the VAT lady' and she later replied in an email, 'Team Stead strikes again'," Mr Gledhill added.

Danielle Graham, representing Mark Stead, said her client accepted he was going to jail for some length of time.

"My client is of previous good character and he has never been in the criminal system before, so this significant sentence with have a major impact on him," she added.

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Helen Chapman, representing Everett, asked Judge Mark Bury to suspend a potential sentence for her client.

"She did what she did at the direction of her husband," Ms Chapman told the court. "She was under the influence of him and he was always in the driving seat, but I accept she did enjoy the spoils from their offending.

"But the main concern is for her children."

David Stead’s solicitor, Claire Robinson, said her client had never lived an exuberant lifestyle before or after the scam, adding he was "of previous good character".

Milestone's solicitor said her client was remorseful and was involved in the care of her grandchildren and husband.

Meanwhile Wragg’s solicitor told the court his client had been recently diagnosed as autistic and would struggle with life in jail, adding it had been five years since his client was arrested and he had not caused any trouble since.

Judge Bury told defendants he would need the weekend to consider the case before remanding both Mark and David Stead into custody.

The other defendants were granted bail and were told to "prepare for prison".

They are all due to be sentenced today (Monday, June 5).

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