A travel agent has appeared in court for booking £50,000 of bogus holidays in the belief that he was helping to save his agency.
Scott Penna thought the Thomson store in St Annes, where he was manager, was in danger of closure so he used his own credit card to book luxury holidays in a bid to boost sales.
Preston Crown Court heard how Thomson lost £49,000 on just one holiday after the 29-year-old – who pleaded guilty to fraud – falsely booked a break for 24 people to the Maldives.
Penna paid for the deposit and then moved the date of the holiday to avoid paying the full balance. But he failed to cancel the holiday meaning it could not be resold, the Blackpool Gazette reported.
Although Penna made 3% commission on all transactions, that figure was not high enough to cover the £9,812 he lost by using his own bank and credit cards.
The judge, Recorder Patrick Field QC, ordered Penna, who now lives in Oakhampton, Devon, to serve six months in prison, suspended for a year, and also carry out 200 hours unpaid work.
He added the case had peculiar circumstances, with those who committed a similar fraud normally facing an immediate prison term.
Penna had pleaded guilty to one count of fraud covering a period between October 2007 and March 2009.
Kirsten McAteer, prosecuting, said: “An unusual feature of the case is that it seems the defendant himself made losses on the transactions which he booked.
“The prosecution accepts he has not financially profited personally from the transactions.
“His motivation appears to have been promotion, making a good impression within the company.”
Penna was found out when another member of staff arrived at the branch and audited the computer system.
A number of bookings showed up which caused concern – the main one being the Maldives trip.
Penna told police the shop had not been performing well and said he had wanted to bring it into profit and also “get his name out there”. He had not realised what he was doing was in fact fraud.
Michael Hayton, defending, said it was inevitable Penna’s actions would be discovered but he had feared the branch would close and wanted to enhance its reputation.
He added: “He presents as a markedly naive young man. The case could not be more different from someone who commits fraud and spends money on a lavish lifestyle.”
Thomson parent Tui UK said: "Tui UK can confirm that a former employee Scott Penna was convicted of fraud by false representation at Preston Crown Court.
“Tui UK is pleased with the outcome of the case; we co-operated fully with the police and played a major part in providing evidence for the investigation.”
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