ABTA says a prison sentence imposed on a fraudulent
travel agent claiming to be a member will serve as a stark warning
to other con artists.

Lisa Varley, 38, originally from Norfolk, received a 15-month
prison sentence at Norwich Crown Court after admitting 13 offences
of fraud and deception relating to three travel companies.

One of the companies, Premier Dubai, failed financially in 2001
and it emerged Varley had misrepresented the business as having
consumer protection under the ABTA and ATOL schemes.

After the collapse of Premier Dubai, which saw more than 100
people lose holidays they had paid for, Varley set up Simple East,
which failed in 2002 leaving 70 clients out of pocket.

Varley, a mother of two, was then involved with Hotels Worldwide
Direct, where she falsified documents to cover money taken for
personal debts unbeknown to the company.

ABTA chief executive Ian Reynolds said: “Premier Dubai
intentionally set out to mislead its customers and left many
considerably out of pocket. We are pleased to see that in this
instance the police and courts have treated this matter with the
severity it demanded. This judgement sends out a loud and clear
message to any others tempted to try the same trick.”

ABTA said it thought this was the first time a prison sentence
has been imposed for fraud by a travel agent.

Detective Constable Chris Gay of the Norfolk Constabulary fraud
squad said Varley’s activities had included taking deposits
or payments in full from customers and then failing to provide a
deposit refund or goods paid for.

He said it was unclear how much money Varley had obtained from
fraudulent activities, but it was unlikely customers could get
their money back unless they had paid with a credit card.