Con artist convicted of holiday scam

15/04/2014

A woman who conned professional footballers and wealthy businessmen out of thousands of pounds has today been jailed at Stafford Crown Court today for two years, suspended for two years, after she had pleaded guilty to offences of fraud.

Claire Duke, aged 38, from St Albans, Hertfordshire set up a business offering concierge services for wealthy individuals.  She claimed to be able to arrange luxury holidays and first class flights at a discount.

Between April 2012 and July 2013, she has cheated the victims out of in excess of £70,000 for holidays and flights which she had claimed she was booking for them. These were family holidays to destinations which included Dubai, America, Italy and South Africa.  

Duke confirmed to the victims that the flights and hotels had all been booked and the proceeded to withdraw their money for the holiday.

It was only when the victims contacted the airline or hotel to confirm their booking that they were informed that either their booking had been cancelled, or that no booking was ever made.

When one of her clients checked his bank statement he discovered that unauthorised payments had been made. Further investigation revealed that the defendant had used his debit card details to pay for holidays and flights for others.

When her victims tried to contact Duke to enquire about their bookings she provided a variety of excuses to try to placate them.

The defendant was eventually arrested by the police and she was charged with seven counts of fraud to which she pleaded guilty. She was jailed for two years, suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work. 

Martin Lindop, Sector Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said:

"Claire Duke devoted a lot of time and effort into defrauding her victims out of thousands of pounds in order to satisfy her greed for money.

"She targeted the wealthy and offered them a holiday service, but she has abused her position of trust and spun a web of lies in order to cover her tracks so that she could continue to defraud them.

"Today she has been sentenced and the CPS will now take steps to recover the amount stolen."