A TATTOO tax cheat who drained more than £260,000 out of the public purse during an 11-year revenue fraud faces losing his home after his scam was uncovered.
Eric Ian Mitchenson has been put in prison for 18 months after he orchestrated the fraud from his tattoo business Skin Deep.
Police raided the shop on High North- gate, Darlington, as they investigated an associate of the 61-year-old on suspicion of firearms offences.
During the operation on June 21, 2011, officers seized an air rifle that – unbeknown to Mitchenson – had been modified and a second disabled firearm that was legal.
But once inside the property they discovered hand-written notes in which Mitchenson warned his wife not to take the company accounts to tax inspectors.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) combed through the personal records and discovered that in 1999 Mitchenson had declared sales of £20,000 for his business and paid no tax.
But his own records showed he had actually raked in more than £76,000 and owed the public purse more than £28,000 in tax and VAT.
Over the next decade, Mitchenson continued the scam and conned the public purse out of more than £260,000.
Notes, signed by Mitchenson and intended for his wife in the event of his death, said: “Do not show, under any circumstances, these whole documents to the Inland Revenue or any other Government body!!”
Mitchenson, of North Lodge, Chester- le-Street, County Durham, pleaded guilty to four counts of tax fraud during an earlier hearing at Durham Crown Court.
Yesterday Judge Simon Hickey said he could not ignore the significant sums of money involved in the fraud that stretched over more than a decade. He was also ordered to pay back £260,000 or face an increase on his jail term.
Jailing him for 18 months, he told Mitchenson: “This was a significant amount of money over a significant number of years in which you defrauded the revenue. An investigation revealed an underpayment in relation to VAT, corporation tax and income tax over a number of years.”
Mitchenson, who set-up the tattoo parlour in 1985, claimed he had orchestrated the fraud after ploughing huge sums of cash into a failed property development business which had seen him lose his fortune.
His solicitor, who knew the venture was failing, convinced him to prop up the business with his own money despite knowing it was about to collapse, the court was told.
References were given to the court and Judge Hickey was told of Mitchenson’s clean record.
Christopher Knox, mitigating, said: “This all started when Mr Mitchenson was involved in a property development that went wrong.