The 51-year-old was among four people convicted and sentenced at Antrim Crown Court
Edward ‘Teddy’ Copeland was the ‘brains’ behind an audacious plan which saw £260,000 claimed from a government-run scheme to help the construction industry.
The 51-year-old, from Manse Road in Carryduff, was among four people convicted and sentenced at Antrim Crown Court for the tax conspiracy.
Three others received suspended sentences, but father of two and grandparent Copeland will spend the next two years behind bars.
Sources who know Copeland – who ran a number of businesses – say they aren’t surprised he’s finally been caught out.
The Sunday World understands he was involved in a tax scandal in the ’90s too and that contributed to him being the only one sent to jail for the scam this time around.
“Everyone thinks Teddy’s a great fella because he was always splashing the cash, buying rounds of drink and treating his family and friends,” said a source.
“Now they know why. He always had a thick roll of cash in his pockets and to be fair he was always very generous. He comes across as being this hard-working happy-go-lucky guy but he’s just a criminal.
“At the end of the day while some people will think he’s done nothing wrong taking from the taxman, it’s those taxes which pay for the hospitals and schools.”
Copeland comes originally from the Ardoyne area of north Belfast and shares the same name and birthday as prominent republican – Eddie Copeland – but otherwise has absolutely no connection.
“He used the name Teddy or Ted rather than Eddie but he was born in the same hospital on the same day as the other Eddie Copeland – their mums even share the same name,” says a source.
“I think he deliberately went by Teddy Copeland to make sure nobody ever got him mixed-up with the republican one.”
The other Eddie Copeland became the boss of the IRA in 2002 and survived a number of murder bids from loyalists and was even shot at by a soldier and survived. He’s no longer involved in the IRA or Sinn Féin.
During sentencing at Antrim Crown Court last Wednesday, it emerged the fraudulent claims made by Teddy Copeland were submitted to the HMRC Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) between January 2015 and September 2017.
Copeland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat the Public Revenue and was jailed for two years but was also ordered to pay a £150,000 confiscation order.
Investigators from HMRC found that Copeland used two businesses to exploit the scheme, under which contractors deduct tax from payments to subcontractors that should then be passed on to HMRC.
HMRC launched the investigation and arrested Copeland after his home had been searched in June 2017.
On the same date, 52-year-old Deborah Ramsey, from Newbuildings, Co Derry, was arrested following a search at her place of work, a building firm in Derry.
She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat the Public Revenue on May 26, 2022 and was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for three years.
Copeland liked to play host for friends and family according to sources but those in his wider circle are shocked he’s ended up behind bars.
“Teddy’s house is amazing and he liked to host parties and barbecues and show off his wealth which people thought all came from hard work,” said a source.
“He drives a big Toyota Landcruiser and his wife drove a Mercedes convertible. Teddy loved a bit of bling too – watches, necklaces and all that.
“Him and his wife were always away somewhere. They had holidays in Egypt and recently they went to Mexico.
“Since he was arrested a few years ago though Teddy has been really careful not to put up photos on social media which would make it look like he lives a champagne lifestyle.
“But if you look at his wife’s Facebook page there’s no shortage of the two of them away on luxury holidays or eating lobster and drinking expensive champagne.
“Though people who knew him really well aren’t shocked, there’s plenty of people who just saw Teddy as a decent big lad who knew how to make a few quid with hard work.
“It will come as a shock to many that he’s now in jail.”
HMRC said evidence that was uncovered on mobile phones led to the arrest of both Copeland and Ramsey.
They said further evidence seized then during the searches led to Michael Gerard Donaghy (57), from Claudy, and 34-year-old Belfast man Stephen Matthew Fegan being also charged with fraud.
Donaghy pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to conspiracy to cheat the Public Revenue on January 14, 2022 and was sentenced at the same court to three years imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Fegan meanwhile pleaded guilty to converting criminal property contrary to Section 327 (1) (c) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 on December 17, 2021 at Belfast Crown Court.
He was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, on the same date.
HMRC assistant director Lucie Irving said: “The majority of individuals and businesses pay the tax that is due – however there remains a determined minority like Mr Copeland who refuse to play by the rules.
“HMRC is on the side of the law-abiding majority. By tackling the most serious forms of tax crime we are creating a level playing for businesses and citizens.
“We are determined that they shouldn’t be disadvantaged or impacted by the criminal actions of others.
“We are successful in nine out of ten cases we bring to court and this case is another example of that success.”