Photo Credit: Photo Credit: John McArthur
Travel Agent Admits To £1.6M Holiday Scam, Could Total £2.6M
A UK-based travel agent is facing serious jail time after admitting to defrauding family, friends, and clients out of millions. Lyne Barlow, 39, previously of Stanley, County Durham, has been charged with 10 counts of fraud and money laundering related to loans, investments, and holiday sales.
Barlow’s heist started with friends and family, whose savings she used before setting up an independent travel agency. The agency then fraudulently sold holidays, in many cases, at unbelievably low prices.
Too Good To Be True
After hearing rave reviews from friends, Dave Huthwaite is one of the victims who never received the vacation he paid for. Huthwaite planned to treat his wife and daughter to an inclusive Easter break in 2020. However, after making a £974 bank transfer at Barlow’s request he never received booking details, a receipt, or flight information.
As reported in Glasgow Times, Huthwaite said: “I was going to pay by credit card, but then she asked for bank transfer and I thought that was a bit dodgy but my mate had been away with her so I went ahead.
“It is not something I would normally do but there you go.”
The account is only one instance of the hundreds of customers with similar stories whose holidays were never booked or fully paid for, without their knowledge.
One person lost £500,000 alone.
A local travel industry source said Barlow would offer deals such as a five-star, all-inclusive week in Dubai for an enticing £500.
The source said, “we tried to tell numerous people it wasn’t right but as some people were traveling and getting the holidays at these prices – she was clearly funding the shortfall with other people’s money – they wouldn’t believe it.
“We even contacted her ourselves and tried to call her out but she wasn’t fazed in the least and actually tried to recruit us to work for her.
“She lied about having the relevant licences to trade.
“We contacted police but were informed that as people were getting their holidays, at this point there was nothing they could do.
“People were literally throwing money at her.”
The industry source said, “Barlow told her customers the reason her holidays were so cheap was because travel agents – legitimate ones – were charging large mark-ups on holidays, when in fact it was her prices that were too good to be true.”
An Inevitable Sentence Ahead
Det Sgt Alan Meehan, of the Durham Police force’s economic fraud unit, said, “Fraud is an horrendous crime with such far-reaching consequences for its victims.
“So many people have been affected by her actions, lives have been changed forever and some are still feeling the effects today.
“This is one of the biggest fraud cases Durham Constabulary has ever dealt with and I would like to thank everyone who came forward for their patience and understanding while we carried out a thorough investigation.”
The prosecution claimed Barlow’s offenses topped a total of £2.6 million, though the defense will challenge that figure, the court was told.
Tony Davis, defending, said some customers received their holidays and suffered no loss.
He asked the court to allow a psychiatric report to be prepared and referred to the fact Barlow told some people she has a terminal illness.
Judge James Adkin granted her bail but said “a long prison sentence” is ahead when he passes the sentence on December 12.
Durham Police previously stated Barlow’s travel business was no longer operational, and its social media page was taken down shortly after her arrest in September 2020.