Published on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bogus travel agent jailed for two years

A bogus travel agent has been jailed for two years after conning families out of £130,000 by pretending she'd booked them holidays.

Susan Lee, of Leaze Park, Okehampton, targeted friends, customers and strangers who came into her sweet and toy shop, The Emporium, in the Devon town.

Exeter Crown Court heard she told them 'a pack of lies' and claimed she could get insider deals from travel companies.

Lee, 59, persuaded families to pay up to £8,500 in advance for holidays but gave excuses when they called to ask for confirmations of their bookings.

The court heard that she did provide some with holidays but used money from new victims to try to honour promises made to previous ones.

She claimed she was able to get insider information about last minute cancellations, which is why holiday documents would only be available at a late stage.

According to Devon Live, some were waiting with their bags packed on the day while Lee pretended she was still trying to sort out their flights.

David Sapiecha, prosecuting, said it was a sophisticated fraud which continued from 2010 until 2015.

He said 13 victims lost a total of £130,000, but £40,000 had been repaid from money paid by later victims.

Sentencing, Recorder Mr Andrew Maitland told Lee: "You carried out a determined series of dishonest acts based on a complete untruth, which was that you were in the holiday trade and were fraudulently offering discounted travel.

"It was absolute rubbish. It was a pack of lies."

Nikki Coombe, defending, said her client had never intended to defraud anyone but had got herself into a muddle trying to keep a business going.

She said there were many satisfied customers who had enjoyed their holidays.

She said Lee, who admitted fraud, suffers from diabetes and looks after her arthritic mother and her adult daughter who is suffering from a serious illness.

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