A BUSINESSWOMAN, who submitted forged invoices to fraudulently pocket £87,509 in VAT refunds, has been jailed for failing to repay the stolen money.

Party and events company operator Claire Gould was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, at Durham Crown Court in September, 2016.

She previously admitted fraud and forgery charges.

Gould claimed to have spent £1.25 million on goods and services for her companies, Balloon Mania Ltd, All Wrapped Up Events Ltd plus Belles and Beaus (UK) Ltd, based in Fencehouses, near Houghton-le-Spring.

She used fake invoices in an attempt to claim up to £175,000 in VAT refunds, of which £87,509 was paid.

As part of the sentence imposed by Judge Simon Hickey, she was ordered to repay the £87,509 she made from her crimes, by October 31, 2016, or risk an 18-month prison sentence, in default.

But 38-year-old Gould, of Garland Terrace, Fencehouses, was said to have only managed to pay back £7,000.

She has now paid the price, with a prison sentence of almost 17 months imposed at a hearing at Leeds Magistrates’ Court.

As well as 504-day sentence, she still owes the money.

The court heard on top of the outstanding remaining debt of £80,509, there is interest on it totalling £9,936, which will increase by £17.65 a day until it is paid.