Emily Barrass was jailed for two years after using her position as a call centre adviser at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) office in Dundee to make fraudulent claims.
Barrass, from Carnoustie in Angus, moved to Arbroath and bought a house from Susan Lindsay, who was emigrating to the USA. At the time she had a live claim for tax credits which were being paid into her bank account.
The enterprising Barrass kept the claim open, then amended Miss Lindsay’s file to qualify her for a higher rate of child tax credit. And then she changed the bank account details associated with the claim so that the money was paid into a different account, which she controlled. It was easy for her to update files to show that Lindsay had actually requested the changes.
And then she got greedy. Over the next three years, she updated the account to claim that Miss Lindsay had informed her of two more children being born, increasing the payment amounts.
And Barrass also accessed the tax credit account of the former partner of a relative and amended the details to make payments into an account in the name of Susan Lindsay. Two more fictional children were also added to this claim.
An investigation was finally established when suspicions were raised by the fact that Barrass had made so many changes to Lindsay’s file.
Fiscal depute Vicki Bell told Dundee Sherriff Court that the total amount fraudulently claimed by Emily Barrass totalled £92,589.
Barrass pleaded guilty to two charges of repeatedly accessing and amending tax credit claims in the name of the two women between 2005 and 2009. Her defence lawyer, Joseph Myles, told the court that the fraud had started because Barrass was struggling with household bills.
Sheriff Alistair Duff was not impressed. “You obtained a total of more than £90,000 as a result of your participation in these crimes and that puts this case in a situation where only a custodial sentence is appropriate. There are not significant mitigating circumstances in my view,” he told her, issuing a sentence of two years in jail.
What is most alarming about this case is that Barrass was able to receive payments for five years before anyone in HMRC cottoned on to her fraud.