A fraudster sold fake holidays worth £70,000 to her family and friends while pretending she worked for Virgin Atlantic and Emirates.
Jessica Greatorex-Thomas, 29, from Saffron Walden in Essex, persuaded her neighbours and family to fork out thousands for trips to Venice, the Maldives, Rome and Florida despite not being employed by a travel agency.
The mother, who lived on a military barracks with her husband and children, sold fake holidays to four families in total – including her own brother-in-law – before she refunded all of the money when the holidays did not take place.
She was handed a suspended sentence of 20-months, alongside an additional 14 months to run concurrently, and 120 hours of unpaid work at Chelmsford Crown Court last Wednesday after pleading guilty to four counts of fraud.
Judge Seely said Greatorex-Thomas had avoided jail time by ‘a squeak’ because her husband is set to be deployed to Germany with her children and could not take on the role of ‘sole carer.’
Greatorex-Thomas’ most significant victim was one of her neighbours at the barracks, Kate Taylor-Reilly, to whom she sold more than £48,000 worth of fake holidays over the course of a few months, the court heard.
Jessica Greatorex-Thomas (pictured with her husband), 29, from Saffron Walden in Essex, persuaded her neighbours and family to fork out thousands for trips to Venice, the Maldives, Rome and Florida
Prosecuting, Carolyn Gardiner said Ms Reilly believed she and Greatorex-Thomas were ‘good friends’, as Mr Reilly and her family had offered her ‘as much support as they could’ after the defendant’s husband went on tour.
In January 2016, Greatorex-Thomas claimed she was working for a top travel company and managed to get herself and her husband a great deal on a trip to New York.
After Ms Reilly showed interest in her trip, the defendant told her she would be able to get her some great holiday deals too.
In her victim statement, Ms Reilly said: ‘I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe how kind someone could be. It was a massive gesture.’
Greatorex-Thomas went on to sell her neighbour fake holidays to Venice, the Maldives, Rome, Bora Bora and Disney World totalling thousands for the victim, who had decided to ‘live in the moment’ after her mother’s cancer scare.
However, when it became time for the initial trip to Venice to take place, Greatorex-Thomas told Ms Reilly she was having problems at work and the holiday would need to be pushed to next year.
The court heard how Ms Reilly accepted this excuse and re-booked the trip, even adding her aunt and uncle to the holiday after they expressed how much they would like to go.
Miss Gardiner said: ‘The disappointment made Ms Reilly slightly suspicious. With every holiday something came up and they had to be cancelled.’
Greatorex-Thomas’ most significant victim was one of her neighbours at the barracks, Kate Taylor-Reilly, to whom she sold more than £48,000 worth of fake holidays
Disappointment hit again with a holiday to Florida, when Greatorex-Thomas told Ms Reilly she had found out her aunt had weeks to live, the court heard. She added she had been made redundant so the holiday had to be cancelled.
In a statement, Ms Reilly said: ‘I felt physically sick. I couldn’t think how I was going to tell my family, I knew the children would be heartbroken.
‘I thought I was being selfish after the news that Jess had told me about her Aunt.’
Greatorex-Thomas said that most of their other holidays would be honoured but a few had to be cancelled.
Ms Reilly was told that all of her money would be refunded but it could take three weeks before she got it back.
It was then that Ms Reilly asked to speak to Greatorex-Thomas’ manager, but she was told it wasn’t possible.
She decided to contact Emirates – who Greatorex-Thomas claimed she worked for – but to her shock she was told there were no holidays booked in their name and the defendant was not a member of staff.
Miss Gardiner explained to the court how the defendant tried to make them keep their bookings, but the family persisted and wanted to get their money back.
She was handed a suspended sentence of 20-months, alongside an additional 14 months to run concurrently, and 120 hours of unpaid work at Chelmsford Crown Court last Wednesday after pleading guilty to four counts of fraud
Eventually, Greatorex-Thomas did end up refunding the family all of the money they had given her.
In a statement, Ms Reilly said: ‘I am still upset by this whole situation. The scam has caused myself and my family great distress.
‘My sister had to break the news to the children. I feel used and I feel like I was groomed for financial gain.’
Ms Reilly was one of four victims of Greatorex-Thomas’s fraud, having also sold fake holidays worth £14,300 to her brother-in-law.
The court heard how Mr Thomas had trusted the defendant and felt confident booking holidays for himself and his colleagues, including a honeymoon.
‘Greatorex-Thomas sold him a holiday to Sweden, but just a week before his planned trip she told him that the airline had double booked his seat so it had to be cancelled,’ the court heard.
Mr Thomas was told that he would get a full refund. He asked Greatorex-Thomas for the details of the finance office so he could make a claim, but she told him he had to be patient.
Whilst trying to claim back his money, Mr Thomas was contacted by someone who told him that Greatorex-Thomas had been arrested for selling fake holidays.
The victim did eventually get his money back, but said the whole incident had left him feeling very stressed.
Greatorex-Thomas also sold false holidays worth £5,400 and £3,100 to two further victims, the court heard.
Representing Greatorex-Thomas, Jane Osborne told the judge that the defendant had paid back all of the money she took from her victims.
Ms Osborne said: ‘This isn’t a case where someone might have lost a house. It was a considerable amount of money but the statements suggest that all of that money has been recovered.
‘Although it took a number of months after the fraud took place, within a relatively short amount of time that money was returned.’
Ms Osborne explained that Greatorex-Thomas repaid the money in a number of ways.
She still had some of it in her accounts which she returned, as well as selling her new car to bring back some of the money.
Her grandmother had also helped and paid the rest of the money back to Greatorex-Thomas’s victims.
Discussing sentencing with the judge, Ms Osborne explained how Greatorex-Thomas’s husband is set to be deployed to Germany, and the whole family, including her children, will be moving.
Explaining how a custodial sentence may cause many problems, Ms Osborne told Judge Seely that Greatorex-Thomas would follow all conditions of a suspended sentence.
She explained that the defendant had said that she would be able to return to the UK to complete any unpaid work required by her sentence.
Judge Seely said Greatorex-Thomas had avoided jail time by ‘a squeak’ as he decided to suspend her sentence due to her husband’s job.
He said: ‘You have avoided prison by a squeak. Your victims may find it hard to understand but I am going to suspend the sentence, and I do that for a number of reasons.’
The judge explained how he chose not to send Greatorex-Thomas to jail for the sake of her family.
He said: ‘This will have a had a huge impact on your children and your husband. Your husband can not possibly take the place a sole carer to your children because of his job. There would be immense impact on your children.’
For the fraud offence against Ms Reilly, Greatorex-Thomas was sentenced to a total of 20 months, once reductions for an early guilty plea had been made.
Greatorex-Thomas also received 14 months for each of the further three offences, but these are to run concurrently with the 20-month term. She will also be required to perform 120 hours of unpaid work.