Dallas Girls Jailed

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Dallas the TV series was synonymous with dodgy millions squandered by dodgy people. Our own Dallas Road Sydenham (above) was home to a fraud that makes the Great Train robbery look like petty theft – and from us – the British taxpayers.

Two of a gang of four lived at number 42. The gang were involved in a “carousel” VAT fraud estimated to have cost at least £40 million in lost VAT were found guilty at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday 12th August 2005. The two women were described by a neighbour as nice and very polite young ladies in the music business. This explained the late night visitations from a wide variety of people in posh cars. The only surprise was their own very expensive sports car “bought with some money they had just come into”. Now we know where it came from!

The scam, which continued for over two years, involved buying mobile phones from three fictitious companies and using false receipts to charge VAT on the transactions. The loss to HM Revenue & Customs during this period is estimated to be more than £40 million. The proceeds from this crime were then sent to the Hong Kong bank accounts of a number of companies created to perpetrate the fraud.

The companies with the Hong Kong bank accounts were in fact clones of existing British-registered companies dealing mostly in mobile phones and the accused issued fraudulent invoices in the names of the existing British companies, and VAT was charged on those invoices under their true VAT registration numbers.

The invoices themselves were manufactured to resemble those used by the real companies, often by means of downloading logos and other details from the internet. Buyers were instructed to make payment to the Hong Kong accounts. The funds could then be electronically dispersed.

Assistant Chief Investigation Officer Deborah Hayman said: “This type of fraud is not a victimless crime and threatens the economic well-being of the country. This result sends a clear message that HMRC is committed to tackling the most serious organised crime that attacks our Revenue systems. Not only will we dismantle and prosecute these organisations, but we will vigorously pursue the recovery of their criminally derived assets.”

All four have been remanded in custody and will be sentenced on 9 September 2005.

Those found guilty were:

  • Stephen Michael Pigott, DOB 27/12/62.
  • Musician/music producer of 62 Alkhor Plaza, Al Garhoud Road, Dubai, UAE.
  • Stacey Haber-Hofberg, DOB 25/01/62.
  • Music lawyer and ex-NY Judge of 5 Haslemere Road, Liphook, Hampshire.
  • Joanna Cynthia Harris, DOB 24/02/69. Fitness instructor of 42 Dallas Road, Sydenham, London SE26.
  • Theresa Ifeyinwa Igbanugo, aged 38. Record label director of 42 Dallas Road, Sydenham, London SE26.

The defendants faced the two charges of: Cheating the Public Revenue with intent to defraud, contrary to Common Law. (Money Laundering) Assisting another to retain benefit of criminal conduct contrary to s93A(1) (a) CJA 1988. Stephen Michael Pigott pleaded guilty to both charges on the first day of the trial.

Sentencing in this case has been deferred until 9 September 2005.

Prior to trial, restraint orders were obtained against all defendants following the identification of significant assets in the form of properties, luxury cars and bank accounts within the UK and abroad. Steps are now underway to confiscate the proceeds of the criminal activity.

Based on a report issued by HM Revenue & Customs Media Relations Team

UPDATE 12/09/05:

The two Dallas Road Girls get 3½ years sentences at Canterbury Court last Friday 9th. They were also both disqualified from being a company director for ten years. Pigott got 9 years for being “closest to the (still free) organisers”. Haber-Hofberg was sentenced to 6 years. Pigott and Haber-Hofberg were both disqualified from holding the position of company director for the next fifteen years.

Passing sentence, Her Honour Judge Williams said: “It was an audacious and outrageous fraud… all defendants showed a shameless dishonesty.” HM Revenue & Customs said “this showed the courts agreed that … this attack on our Revenue systems is a serious crime”.

Does it?

Is this a case of leniency for what is still seen as a ‘victimless crime’? The Great Train Robbers were done for 20 years. Yes they did injure the train driver – but the portion of £40 million not now being spent on public services & health may kill many anonymously.

The Mr Big behind this gang didn’t get caught. It is a lot easier to catch & convict the foot soldiers. But the getaway driver on a bank heist is as guilty and culpable for the result of the crime as the boss & safe cracker. Two years inside makes this a potentially more lucrative, safer and more comfortable crime to commit than going out mugging or housebreaking.

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