Rita Hunter, 63, who ran Hunters Travel in Liverpool, defrauded Advantage out of £33,000. She used former customers’ cards for new bookings through the consortium and funnelled cash into her own accounts.
Advantage alerted police after noticing a series of chargeback requests shortly after Hunter joined in October 2014. She was arrested in September 2015 and admitted two counts of fraud in August 2016.
She was sentenced to 18 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay back the £33,000 to Advantage. However, this month Hunter was sentenced to six months in prison for culpable negligence after paying back just £250 of the £51,430 total compensation owed to Advantage and others.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, Advantage managing director, said: “We now feel justice has prevailed, not only for ourselves but for the customers affected by [her] actions.”
Advantage told TTG it has been working with industry specialist Profit (Prevention of Fraud in Travel) in creating a register to identify those involved in “previously reported discrepancies”.
A spokesperson said: “The tool is an exceptionally positive step forward for the industry and one that is welcomed by all consortia.
“We have a responsibility to mitigate risk for our individual businesses as well as to implement positive solutions such as this to deter possible offenders in the future. The portal will be live shortly.”
Barry Gooch, chairman of Profit, added: “Once introduced the Fraud Intelligence Network (Fin) system will enable consortia and travel companies to identify applicants for membership that have previously committed economic crime against travel companies and our customers, often on multiple occasions.
“Currently we are working with [lawyers] Hill Dickinson to ensure that the system will be fully GDPR compliant.”