OTA owner jailed for fraud and money laundering

OTA owner jailed for fraud and money laundering

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The owner of an online travel agency based on the Isle of Man was jailed last week after pleading guilty to theft and money laundering.

Craig Jay of Cambridge Terrace, Douglas, was sentenced on Friday (January 23) alongside his accomplice Brian Penrose of Chignal Smealey, Chelmsford, Essex.

The Court of General Gaol in Douglas heard the pair had carried out credit and debit card fraud which saw them charging customers twice for holiday bookings that turned out not to exist.

Jay was sentenced to 19 months custody after pleading guilty to three offences, two of theft from two credit card companies and one of money laundering.

Penrose received a sentence of seven months custody suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty to money laundering and obtaining services by deception. He was also ordered to pay £6,000 in compensation to one of the victims.

The court was told that in June 2012 Penrose submitted a deceptive application in the name of his property letting company Click Letting Limited in order to obtain a card processing facility from London-based WorldPay.

Jay was the managing director and owner of an online travel agent based on the island known as Expressbookers which sold holidays to UK customers accepting debit and credit card payments via its website.

In July 2012 Penrose allowed Jay to use his company card processing facility as he wished.

According to police who investigated the crimes, in a 13 day period 108 card transactions with a total value of £74,590.47 were processed by Expressbookers using the Click Letting facility.

All of those cardholders had previously paid the travel company for their holidays and this resulted in them being double charged by a company they had no knowledge of and had never authorised to take money from their card.

To compound matters, many of the customers failed to receive their holidays with some travelling abroad with their family only to find there was no accommodation for them.

Following the card processing, both of the defendants then jointly laundered the proceeds of the transactions over the following weeks with monies being transferred between various bank accounts and locations in an attempt to disguise the origin of funds. Investigations showed that both defendants had benefited from those monies.

Police investigators found a second card processing company European Merchant Services, based in the Netherlands, had also been a victim of Jay. It had provided his travel company with a card processing facility.

In late July and early August 2012 the company dishonestly submitted 478 fraudulent card refunds totalling £325,041.04 to EMS for processing, which resulted in the sum of £75,744.03 being stolen from that company.

Detective Constable Nick Willingham of the Financial Crime Unit said: “The defendant’s actions not only resulted in significant losses to card processing companies but also caused inconvenience and distress to hundreds of cardholders who had trusted an Isle of Man based travel company with their card details in order to fulfil their holiday bookings.

“The convictions are the culmination of a near two year investigation. The Financial Crime Unit will continue to investigate allegations of financial crime in order to maintain the confidence in the Island’s financial and business community.”

A Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation hearing in relation to Mr Jay’s assets is due to take place in April 2015.

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