Walsall retailer exaggerated company's turnover by almost £180k to receive £45k pandemic loan

A woman lied about the size of her novelty balloon business in order to pocket £45,000 in aid during the Covid pandemic.

Rebecca Simmons "grossly" exaggerated her company's turnover to receive a £45,000 pandemic loan
Rebecca Simmons "grossly" exaggerated her company's turnover to receive a £45,000 pandemic loan

Rebecca Simmons "grossly exaggerated" her company's turnover by almost £180,000 to receive the loan from the government.

Now Simmons, of Tia-Bella Limited, has been banned from running any business for nine years.

The 32-year-old ran the speciality balloon and gifts retailer through Facebook, registered to addresses in Walsall, Wolverhampton, and Middlesex.

She lied about her figures in May 2020 so that she could qualify for a bounce-back loan, designed to support viable businesses during the pandemic.

Simmons, of Walsall, had massively exaggerated her company's turnover, which was actually a maximum of £1,300 per year – £178,700 less than she had claimed.

This meant that she was not even entitled to the minimum bounce back loan of £2,000.

In the space of two months, Rebecca Simmons caused the company to make payments worth just over £31,000, including £10,000 in directors’ loans, £10,000 towards a company car, and £10,000 worth of repayments of deposits incurred before the pandemic.

Simmons has now been disqualified from running companies for nine years and liquidators will also have a duty to look at how to recover the bounceback loan funds.

She was caught out when Tia-Bella entered into voluntary liquidation in July 2021, just over two years after the company was incorporated.

The insolvency trigged further enquiries from the Insolvency Services, which uncovered her deception.

Simmons was unable to provide supporting documents, which left investigators unable to confirm whether the £45,000 bounce back loan benefited the business or not.

The disqualification was imposed earlier this year after Simmons did not dispute that she caused Tia-Bella Limited to apply for a government-backed Bounce Back Loan it was not entitled to.

Effective from August 25, Rebecca Simmons is banned from directly, or indirectly, becoming involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company, without the permission of the court. Tia-Bella’s Liquidator is considering the bounce back loan and recovery of funds.

Lawrence Zussman, deputy head of insolvent investigations, said: "Bounce back loans were issued by the government to help viable businesses during the pandemic.

"Not only did Rebecca Simmons grossly exaggerate the company’s turnover to secure a loan she shouldn’t have got a single penny of, Rebecca Simmons went onto use the funds on activities she couldn’t even justify as benefitting Tia-Bella.

"Rebecca Simmons conduct fell extremely short of the standards required of a company director and has been removed from the corporate arena for a significant amount of time.

"Her nine-year ban should serve as a clear warning that if you abuse government support, we will use our full powers to bring you to account."

Rebecca Simmons has been contacted for comment.

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