Jason Croan, of Eastlea Crescent, Seaham, ran a company called TS Software Solutions Ltd and fraudulently claimed VAT repayments between September 2017 and September 2019.
An investigation was launched by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which revealed that no trading had taken place during this period and that 40-year-old Croan had used false invoices and lied about business purchases to pocket £50,544 in VAT repayments he was not entitled to. He had claimed a further £22,485 but that had been withheld by HMRC.
13 pictures as Sunderland fans celebrate promotion in the city centre
13 of your fan pictures ahead of Sunderland's League One play-off final at Wembley
13 fantastic pictures from the STACK at Seaburn as Sunderland clinch play-off final win
Tributes paid to ‘massive’ Sunderland fan Tony Staplin after tragic death in County Durham crash
Uncertainty over future and ownership of former Sunderland Travelodge in High Street West
Croan admitted VAT fraud when he appeared before Durham Crown Court in October last year and he was back before the same court earlier this month for sentence, when he was handed a term of 21 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.
HMRC has also begun proceedings to recover the outstanding amount of tax.
A HMRC spokesperson said the service would not hesitate to pursue anyone who tried to defraud the system and urged anyone who knew of similar cases to get in touch: “This was a deliberate attempt to steal thousands of taxpayers’ money which should be used to fund our vital public services.
“We will continue to pursue the small minority like Croan who commit tax fraud and steal money for their own benefit. We urge anyone with information about tax evasion to report it to HMRC online.”