Merseyside Police probe reports of bookings fraud

Merseyside Police probe reports of bookings fraud

Convicted fraudster Rita Hunter is facing fresh allegations of defrauding holidaymakers.

Merseyside Police confirmed it was investigating six reports received relating to flights and accommodation booked through a third-party company but not supplied or paid for.

Police have not named the company or suspects involved, but have urged victims to come forward.

The six complainants, from the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Merseyside and Yorkshire, said they paid for flights and hotels and either did not receive tickets or arrived in destinations to find accommodation had not been booked.

In a statement, a police spokesman said: “An investigation into the reports is ongoing.”

Travel Weekly has spoken to two complainants who alleged they paid Hunter for holidays which turned out to be bogus or had not been paid for, so had to pay twice.

Both were issued with paperwork indicating flights, accommodation and transfers had been booked.

When contacted by Travel Weekly to discuss the new complaints, Hunter acknowledged she had taken bookings which had not been supplied but strongly denied any suggestion she had defrauded holidaymakers or acted improperly.

She said she was “wholeheartedly sorry” for not being able to pay back monies owed to clients and said she was a victim of circumstance.

Hunter, who had been operating as a sole trader under the name Platinum Travel, said she had now closed her business.

She said her bank accounts had been frozen which meant she could not repay clients.  Her previous firm, Hunters Travel, went bankrupt last year.

Hunter insisted she had taken only two to three bookings this summer and thought the holidays had been paid for.

“I understand how these people feel and I am determined to pay them back,” she said.

Around 13 holidaymakers who claimed they booked holidays through Hunter have formed a closed group on WhatsApp. Between them they estimate they have lost £70,000.

Couple Karl Mathers and Matthew Wright said they paid Hunter £5,600 for a holiday to Belek, Turkey, in July this year for themselves and their son only to discover the day before departure the hotel had no reservation.

They contacted Hunter, who rebooked them, but when they left their hotel two weeks later they found it had not been paid and were charged €9,000 for the room.

Another complainant, Jill Stanton, who paid £3,600 for a seven-night holiday to Limassol, was told a week before departure the holiday was cancelled due to a travel agency cashflow issue.

In both of these cases Hunter claimed her bank account had been frozen and she intended to repay the money.

In September 2016, Hunter was convicted of defrauding agency consortium Advantage Travel Partnership of tens of thousands of pounds. She was handed a suspended sentence.

She promised to repay Mathers and Wright £970 a month from October 30. No money had been paid to either set of complainants.

Advantage said it had been contacted by several concerned members of the public in relation to bookings with Hunter whose consortium membership was terminated in 2015.

Managing director Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “Since Travel Weekly reported Hunter’s conviction, we have been contacted by several members of the public all of whom have been allegedly defrauded by Rita. We have referred all the individuals to the police and Action Fraud.”

Anyone who believes they have been victim of a similar offence is asked to contact Merseyside Police on 101 quoting incident reference 0517211346, or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report a fraud or receive advice.

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