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21 Nov 2018

BY James Chapple

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Disgraced travel agent Rita Hunter jailed for fraud

A travel agent jailed after failing to pay back thousands of pounds she stole from her clients has been sentenced to a further four years eight months in prison.

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Disgraced travel agent Rita Hunter jailed for fraud

Rita Hunter, 63, of Sankey Road, Liverpool, admitted 14 counts of fraud by false representation when she appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday (November 21).


Her offending related to 13 victims and took place between 2016 and 2018, said Merseyside Police.


The force said Hunter gained the trust of victims from around the country and sold them flights and accommodation via her travel company.


However, instead of booking the services her victims paid for, she used the money for her own purposes, leaving them out of pocket and without the holidays “they looked forward to and worked hard to pay for”.


Some victims, said police, even turned up at their holiday destinations only to find their accommodation hadn’t been booked.


Detective Constable Stephen Baker said: "The fraud perpetrated by Hunter was particularly unpleasant because many of her victims were led to believe they had booked flights and accommodation, which they looked forward to and worked hard to pay for, only to be left extremely disappointed and turned away at hotels when it came to light nothing had been booked by Hunter.


"I would like to thank the victims in this case for coming forward and would like to reassure the public reports of any kind of fraud are taken extremely seriously and will be thoroughly investigated.”


The sentence is Hunter’s second spell behind bars this year on account of her offending, which dates to 2014.


Hunter, who ran Liverpool-based Hunters Travel, used former customers’ credit and debit to make bogus bookings through the Advantage Travel Partnership and channelled the cash into her own accounts.


Her ruse was uncovered when Advantage noted a series of chargeback requests shortly after Hunter joined the consortium in October 2014 and alerted police.


She was arrested in September 2015 and admitted two counts of fraud by dishonestly false representation when she appeared at Liverpool Crown Court in August 2016.


Hunter was sentenced to 18 months in jail, suspended for two years, and was ordered to pay Advantage back £33,000 and compensation totalling nearly £20,000.


However, in April this year, Hunter appeared before magistrates and was sentenced to six months in prison for culpable negligence after paying back just £250 of the more than £50,000 she owed.

 

Her offending led to Advantage creating a register of people working in the travel industry with fraud convictions.

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