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ABC News
ABC News
Jamie McKinnell

Lauren Cranston jailed for eight years for her role in major tax fraud scheme

Lauren Cranston, the daughter of a former deputy commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office, has been sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison for her role in a $105 million tax fraud conspiracy.

Along with four others including her brother Adam, last month Cranston was found guilty of two charges over a scheme that ran for about three years to 2017.

A long-running Supreme Court trial heard the conspirators ripped off the federal government by keeping millions in GST and Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax through a complex web of second-tier companies.

A legitimate company, Plutus Payroll, appeared "squeaky clean" and tax compliant but money was siphoned off through the lower-level companies with dummy directors, a jury was told.

The Cranstons are the children of former Australian Taxation Office (ATO) deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, who was not accused of involvement.

Lauren Cranston leaves the NSW Supreme Court last month after being found guilty. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Cranston's role in the conspiracy was to process payroll runs for Plutus and operate the email accounts of the second-tier companies, which a judge today found fell "towards the bottom of the hierarchy".

Justice Anthony Payne said she was not involved in the initial planning and set up of Plutus, but found her participation began no later than February 2015.

The judge said he harboured "strong suspicions" about her state of knowledge prior to that, despite her barrister urging an inference that she was young, unsophisticated and lacking in curiosity.

"I do not accept at any time Ms Cranston was lacking in curiosity about what she was doing," Justice Payne said in sentencing.

The judge handed her a non-parole period of five years, which will expire in March 2028 with a head sentence of eight years.

Cranston appeared via video link and began to sob upon learning her fate and covered her mouth with her hand.

Cranston had 'misguided sense of loyalty'

Justice Payne said the offences involved a high degree of dishonesty and a corresponding breach of trust but Cranston was not principally motivated by greed, having only benefited by about $181,000.

"Her participation was primarily the result of a misguided sense of loyalty to the people directing the conspiracies, particularly her brother," he said.

Lauren Cranston's brother Adam is yet to be sentenced for his role in the scheme. (AAP: Peter Rae)

According to a psychologist's report, Cranston continues to assert her innocence and Justice Payne found she has shown no contrition.

In a closing address last year, the crown said Cranston was responsible for processing payroll runs behind the "facade" of the second-tier companies, and once agreed with a description she was in "the factory" that was making "all the f***ing money".

The crown previously pointed to secret recordings of the conspirators, including meetings which it said showed Cranston's knowledge concerning accounts involved in the scam.

The prosecutor said all of the co-conspirators benefited individually and personally from the fraud, and money was spent on "toys" — extravagant purchases such as real estate and cars.

Cranston's co-conspirators, including Adam Cranston, Patrick Wilmott, Dev Menon and Jason Onley, will be sentenced at a later date.

They were all found guilty of the same two offences: conspiring to dishonestly cause a loss to the Commonwealth and conspiring to deal with the proceeds of crime.

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