TWO Widnes men who attempted to steal nearly £30,000 in tax repayments then tried to blame it on each other when the law caught up with them.

Oliver Leech, 30, of Derby Road, and James Roberts, 28, of French Street, used fake figures on Leech’s Self Assessment form to try to steal the money, a HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation found.

The court heard how Leech’s tax return claimed he’d paid too much tax through the Construction Industry Scheme and was due a repayment of £29,764.

But HMRC investigators became suspicious and began examining the claim after internal checks identified irregularities.

Leech claimed Roberts completed the form while Roberts denied all knowledge.

Investigators found the Self Assessment returns were all made online using IP addresses connected to Leech or Roberts, who later pleaded guilty to fraud.

Roberts, who is currently in jail after admitting another tax fraud plot in February 2017, was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on October 31 to 18 months suspended for two years and must complete 250 hours of community service.

Leech was sentenced to 10 months suspended for 12 months and must complete 200 hours of community service.

An HMRC spokesman said: “This was a poorly conceived scheme to steal money from the public purse. They continued with their lies as both tried to blame the other.

"Tax fraud isn’t a victimless crime, it takes money out of public services that everyone in the UK relies upon.

"We ask anyone with information about suspected tax fraud to contact HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”