A construction equipment fraud gang who used fictitious concrete crushing machines to fund lavish lifestyles have been jailed.
The gang, masterminded by Paul Hackney of Stoke-on-Trent, included 17 people setting up a string of companies to steal from HM Revenue & Customs.
They fabricated transactions and sales of construction equipment, producing fake invoices and paperwork to reclaim sales and export VAT, dodging £2.3m.
The three women and 14 men from Staffordshire, the North-west and Essex were arrested between February 2010 and November 2010.
During that investigation, residential and business properties in the North-west were searched, with bank accounts, computers, cash, CS spray and an imitation firearm seized.
HMRC assistant director of criminal investigation said: “They thought their plan would go undetected because they had created such a complex paper trail – but they were wrong.
“We will unravel even the most complex cases of fraud and bring those responsible before the courts so justice can be served.”