Travel agent faked bookings

Maldives beach scene
Maldives beach scene
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A BLUNDERING travel agent embarked on a staggering one-man mission to save his “under threat” store by booking £50,000 of bogus dream holidays.

Scott Penna believed the Thomson store in St Annes was in danger of going under – so he used his own credit card to book luxury holidays in a desperate bid to boost sales.

Preston Crown Court heard how Thomson lost a staggering £49,000 on just one holiday after the 29-year-old – who pleaded guilty to fraud – falsely booked a break for 24 people to the sun-drenched island paradise of the Maldives.

Penna forked out for the deposit and then moved the date of the holiday to avoid paying the full balance.

But he failed to cancel the holiday meaning it could not be resold.

Although he made a three per cent commission on all transactions, that figure was not high enough to cover the £9,812 Penna lost by using his own bank and credit cards.

Kirsten McAteer, prosecuting, said: “An unusual feature of the case is that it seems the defendant himself made losses on the transactions which he booked.

“The prosecution accepts he has not financially profited personally from the transactions.

“His motivation appears to have been promotion, making a good impression within the company.”

Penna was rumbled when another member of staff arrived at the St Annes branch, on Park Road, and audited the computer system.

A number of bookings showed up which caused concern – the main one being the costly Maldives trip.

In police interviews Penna told officers the St Annes shop had not been performing well and said he had wanted to bring the shop back into profit and also “get his name out there”.

He had not realised what he was doing was in fact fraud.

His defence barrister, Michael Hayton, said it was inevitable Penna’s actions would be discovered but he had feared the branch would close and wanted to enhance its reputation.

He added: “He presents as a markedly naive young man. The case could not be more different from someone who commits fraud and spends money on a lavish lifestyle.”

The judge, Recorder Patrick Field QC, ordered Penna, who now lives in Oakhampton, Devon, to serve six months in prison, suspended for a year, and also carry out 200 hours unpaid work.

He added the case had peculiar circumstances, with those who committed a similar fraud normally facing at an immediate prison term.

Penna had pleaded guilty to one count of fraud covering a period between October 2007 and March 2009 when he was manager of the branch