Travel agent jailed for 9 years after stealing over $2m, faking cancer diagnosis

Travel agent jailed for 9 years after stealing over $2m, faking cancer diagnosis

A UK travel agent has been sentenced to nine years in prison after frauding over 1,400 customers of £1.2 million (AU$2.09 million) in a con operation.

In case your opinion of this woman wasn’t low enough, she also pretended to have cancer as a means of explaining her failures to pass on booking information.

Lyne Barlow, a former UK travel agent, set up her own business called Lyne Barlow Independent Travel in November 2019 after having worked as a travel agent with an employer.

Barlow pled guilty to 10 counts of fraud and admitted to theft and possessing criminal property at her Durham Crown Court on Friday.

Durham police had heard of Barlow, as she developed a reputation as someone who could provide a holiday at the cheapest price possible. She also claimed to be Atol and Abta protected.

Her reputation as the agent to go to for a bargain spread, particularly on social media, where tens of customers left her five-star reviews. However, Barlow used commonly accessible travel websites for booking holidays and would sell the trip at a discounted rate. She made up for the difference by borrowing money from family and friends or loaned from a bank.

Barlow also sold many customers holidays with sections of the trip not actually covered and in some cases, return flights weren’t organised. These frauded customers only found this out once they were at their destination and were left stranded.

Others discovered at the airport that their seats had not been booked or were cancelled due to lack of payment. Barlow often promised to send over booking confirmations, but they never arrived.

She usually blamed delays from holiday companies and sometimes cited her cancer treatment as a reason for the delay. The Telegraph reported that Barlow told one customer that her cancer was “stage 3/4” and “in my bones.”

The fake travel agent spent the stolen money on personal holidays, cars and designer clothes.

Detective Sergeant Alan Meehan, of Durham Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit, who led the investigation, said: “Fraud is a horrendous crime and Barlow’s actions were appalling.

“She made a conscious and deliberate decision to do what she did. There were points at which she could have put a stop to it all, but she carried on and now she is now paying the price for her actions.

“Sadly, so many people have been affected by what she did, lives have been changed forever and some will never be the same again.

“Not only did Barlow offer holidays she could not deliver, but she also took advantage of the generosity and understanding of those around her, which has resulted in such far-reaching consequences.

“She wanted a quality of life she could not afford, which resulted in her defrauding her family, friends, and even complete strangers.

“This is one of the biggest fraud cases Durham Constabulary has ever dealt with and I would like to again thank everyone who came forward for their patience and understanding while we carried out what was a thorough but lengthy investigation.”

Barlow’s pattern of behaviour isn’t exclusive to her fraudulent travel business. She even stole £520,000 (AU$906,000) from her mother after the death of her father in 2015. This followed stealing her mothers financial identity and raiding her bank account. She then covered her tracks by diverting her mothers mail.

Judge Jo Kidd said: “The extent of the betrayal of your mother is truly breath-taking.

“As you gallivanted, your mother’s utility bills went unpaid and county court judgments rained down on her and that led to bailiffs visiting her home. I take the view you are a thoroughly callous individual.”

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