Lincolnshire couple who built criminal empire ordered to pay back £400k or go to jail

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A Lincolnshire couple who enjoyed a lifestyle of big houses and lavish holidays earned through a “web of deceit” have been ordered to repay more than £400,000 in three months – or go back to prison.

Stasys Skarbalius, 62, and Virginija Skarbaliene, 58, were jailed for two-and-a-half years and three years respectively in 2015 after being their property empire was exposed as being a sham.

The pair, originally from Lithuania, operated as illegal gangmasters between 2006 and 2010 after fraudulently setting up Scunthorpe-based business CV Staff Services under a fake identity.

They then applied to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and mortgages to build a property empire, which had an estimated turnover of £12 million.

The deceit was discovered in 2011 when Skarbalius’ bogus Dutch passport, which he held under the name of Charles Rene Luske, expired and he was unable to renew it for the purposes of the annual licence.

A joint investigation by the GLA and the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) saw the pair convicted.

In addition to the jail terms, Skarbalius and Skarbaliene were disqualified as company directors for seven years.

Now the pair have been ordered to pay back £400,000.

Sheffield Crown Court heard on January 9 how they had each received total benefits of £1 million from their criminal exploits.

They were served with Confiscation Orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act on their available assets — £187,219.85 for Skarbalius and £231,687.68 for Skarbaliene — which they must pay within three months or face jail for another two years and three months.

Included in their assets are substantial bank account balances, recovered cash, a Mercedes Sprinter van, a Lexus Sport, a Volkswagen Transporter van, their four-bedroom detached home in Scotter, Lincolnshire, two three-bedroom houses occupied by tenants in Scunthorpe, Humberside, and their Scunthorpe business premises.

The Home Office is also considering deporting the pair.

Detective Constable Grant Bailey, from EMSOU’s regional asset recovery team, said: “Skarbalius and Skarbaliene enjoyed a lifestyle of big houses, lavish holidays and access to substantial amounts of cash thanks to their lucrative business, which had its origins steeped in lies.

“It’s hard to reconcile the stark contrast to their agency workers, who earned just above the minimum wage and undertook honest days of manual labour at farms across Lincolnshire and the Humber to get by in this world. Clients who were potentially left unemployed when the truth was revealed.

“As in this case, the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) enables us to ensure money obtained from crime is repaid to society and our financial investigators work hard to identify all available assets held by criminals.”

Cash repaid under POCA goes to the Treasury, although a proportion can be diverted to fund crime prevention initiatives in local communities.

GLA senior investigating officer Dave Powell said: “The couple involved built their successful business and property portfolio on wholly suspect foundations.

“Dishonesty on this scale will not be tolerated in law and the initial cost they paid for this was their freedom. It is now fitting that they also surrender the financial proceeds amassed through deception to bring a close to this successful joint operation.”

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