Devon

'Callous' bogus travel agent jailed at Exeter Crown Court

Susan Lee Image copyright Devon & Cornwall Police
Image caption Susan Lee targeted friends and strangers

A bogus travel agent has been jailed for swindling families out of £130,000 and leaving them without holidays.

Susan Lee told victims "a pack of lies" claiming she could get cut-price deals through contacts, Exeter Crown Court heard.

Lee, of Leaze Park, Okehampton, targeted friends, customers to her toy shop in the Devon town and strangers, the court was told.

The 59-year-old admitted fraud and was jailed for two years.

'Callous lies'

Lee got families to pay up to £8,500 in advance for holidays and then gave excuses when they called her to ask for confirmations of their bookings.

She did provide some holidays but used money from new victims to try to honour promises made to previous ones, the court heard.

Mr David Sapiecha, prosecuting, said: "This was a sophisticated fraud which continued over a number of years with a large number of victims.

"She used lies to reassure customers. We say they were callous lies and that she resorted to blaming others."

Mr Sapiecha told the court there were 13 victims who lost a total of £130,000, although £40,000 had been repaid from money paid by later customers.

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," he added.

Mrs Nikki Coombe, defending, said Lee never intended to defraud anyone but had got herself into a muddle and tried to keep the business going.