A travel agent who cheated customers out of thousands of pounds for flights he did not book has been jailed for 21 months.

Chetan Pal Panesar, who ran E-tickets Worldwide Limited, in Handsworth, Birmingham, tricked 18 people out of £32,000.

He previously pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business carried on for a fraudulent purpose.

Many customers paid Panesar, 48, from Handsworth, in cash instalments over a number of months.

One person had booked flights to the US to see their terminally-ill mother but could not go because the tickets had not been paid for by Panesar, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

In another case, a woman turned up at Gatwick on Christmas Eve with her daughter to find out their flights to New York had not been booked.

Eighteen people came forward to trading standards, but other people previously told the BBC they were also affected.

Jailing him, Judge Kristina Montgomery QC said: “These were the sort of people who would scrimp and save to visit relatives.

“Over a period of time you took from people.

” Money that went into your business and ultimately your pocket and they received nothing… it was for them a significant deprivation.”

She said a number of factors had led to his custodial sentence, including that he lied about being a member of Abta and Atol travel bodies and blamed airlines for tickets not arriving.

Sajeela Naseer, head of Birmingham Trading Standards, said it welcomed the custodial sentence and was seeking compensation for victims through proceeds of crime proceedings.