Cwmbran worker spared jail after Mexico holiday swindle

First published in Pontypool news

A WOMAN who tried to claim a refund on a £5,000 holiday she hadn’t finished paying escaped a prison sentence after she admitted fraud.

Kimberley Hooper, 29, booked a holiday to Mexico through the travel agent Holidays Your Way Ltd in Cwmbran, where she worked as a telesales assistant.

After some problems at home she hoped the trip could be “make or break” for her family, opting to pay the £5,280 in instalments after booking in January 2012.

Hooper paid a £1,000 deposit with the full balance due by August. In February and March she made two further payments of £400 each, and was also entitled to a staff discount of £500, Newport Crown Court heard.

This left £2,980 left to pay but by April 2012 the company was in financial difficulty and rumours were circulating it might go bust.

Hooper, of Bessborough Drive, Cardiff, questioned managing director David Powell and he confirmed this was a possibility. Later that day Hooper and several other employees walked out, the court heard.

But before this Hooper approached Adam Fox who worked in accounts, telling him she had paid off the rest of the balance on her holiday using a credit card and asking him to update the systems accordingly.

Mr Fox asked Mr Powell to authorise this but he refused, considering it “curious she had chosen to pay the holiday in full on the day Mr Powell had told her the uncertainty of the future of the company”, Jonathan Rhys, prosecuting, said. The company was an Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) member, meaning customers could get their money back if the travel agent went out of business.

Hooper admitted she used fellow employee Luke Francis’ log-in details and then printed off a document showing she had paid for the holiday in full.

In May the company ceased trading. Hooper made a claim to ABTA but the claim was rejected.

When interviewed by police in November 2012 she maintained she had left cash on Mr Powell’s desk. She pleaded guilty before a trial was due to start.

Leanne Pollard, mitigating, said: “She knows she’s acted in a foolish way”

Recorder Peter Griffiths QC said a suspended sentence was appropriate as she was a full-time carer for her baby son who was disabled.

He handed down a ten-month prison sentence for making a false statement on oath as well as a six month sentence for fraud and a two month sentence for securing unauthorised access to computer material with intent, suspended for two years and to run concurrently, and a victim surcharge of £100.

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