Jailed: ‘Fantasist’ netted £118,000 in theatre company scams

Dishonest: Alison Reynolds
Dishonest: Alison Reynolds

A ‘FANTASIST’ who set up a theatre company in Sheffield and used 15 identities to steal £118,000 by falsely claiming VAT refunds has been jailed for six years.

Alison Reynolds, aged 48, stole the identities of work colleagues, friends and even used a credit card in her mother’s name to set up four theatrical companies, including one in Sheffield, to carry out the five-year scam, Southampton Crown Court was told.

Reynolds set up Dreamweavers Theatre Company in Sheffield, Myths and Mirrors in Manchester, Plan B Theatre in Bristol and Gossamer Web in Romsey, Hampshire.

Cairns Nelson QC, prosecuting, said it was doubtful the firms took part in legitimate business and said they were vehicles to commit fraud using false invoices to try and fool the authorities.

Reynolds, formerly from Lymington in Hampshire, had previous convictions for dishonesty dating back to 1987 and had used 32 names and 13 dates of birth during her criminal career, the court heard.

Mr Nelson described the offences from 2003 until 2008 as ‘breathtakingly dishonest’, well-planned and complex. “What’s clear from this case is that the defendant is a dishonest fantasist,” he told the court.

When police raided a clothes shop Reynolds owned called Belle Gray, in Lymington in 2008, HMRC officers found passports and driving licences in a number of names.

Reynolds had even worked as a PA at a firm of solicitors called Warner & Richardson under the name Jessica Maynard and stole an official stamp and headed paper to help her dupe the VAT man.

They also discovered To Do lists with a reminder of ‘VAT invoices to fake’ and a letter on headed paper from one bogus firm that said one of her aliases had gone missing in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

Reynolds, who was born Virginia Povall in Amersham, Bucks, pleaded guilty to four counts of cheating the public revenue and four counts of forgery and fraud, which included possessing a fake UK driving licence and a forged document to change her name.

The judge also jailed Reynolds for a further 12 months for separate offences of perverting the course of justice by submitting a false declaration to try and avoid a parking fine issued in Nottingham in 2002 and breaching a restraining order.

He also disqualified her from being a company director.

In mitigation, the court heard that Reynolds changed her name to Jessica Maynard when she went to the then Sheffield Polytechnic as she was bullied while at school because of her birth name. The court was told she now wanted to be known as Jessica Maynard.