A scamming travel agent who conned families out of more than £32,000 has been spared jail.
Johnny Pollard once won awards for his work as director of travel company On The Beach, but he used his status as a travel expert to scam 22 victims.
The 50-year-old had previously received two awards at the Travel Weekly Globe Travel Awards in 2014.
In 2016 and 2017 he scammed his victims out of £32,125 after selling them nonexistent holidays to destinations like Australia, Dubai, Mexico and South Africa.
After selling the bogus trips he would send ‘convincing’ confirmation letters and promise that more details would follow closer to the time.
However those details never came as just before departure day Pollard would ‘play the blame game’ and say a third party had cancelled their trip.
He would then spend that money on his weekly food shop and exotic holidays for himself.
One victim, who spent £4,000 on two holidays with Pollard, told police: ‘The defendant was persuasive and knowledgeable. The documents he sent over were extremely convincing and made me feel gullible. The whole time he did this consciously and cold-heartedly.’
Pollard, from Prestwich in Manchester, was charged with 22 counts of fraud.
He was sentenced to 20 months in prison suspended for two years after admitting to eight counts, as the remaining 14 charges were shelved because the complainants were either living abroad, moving away, or refusing to support the prosecution.
He was also ordered to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days and 200 hours of unpaid work when he appeared at Manchester Minshull Street crown court today.
Judge Recorder Ciaran Rankin said: ‘You are nothing more than a conman, a thoroughly dishonest man. You were selling false promises. You twisted and turned at every stage, making up more lies to cover your tracks.
‘There has been considerable financial hardship in many households as a result of your actions. A lot of their hard-earned money has ended up in your pocket. In your interview, unsurprisingly, you blamed others for your actions.
‘I have no doubt you are an intelligent man, and you used your intelligence to plant these stories.’
Adam Hodge, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The defendant was involved in this fraudulent activity for over a year. Many of the complainants in this case were his friends, the rest of which were friends of friends and acquaintances.
‘All the offences follow a similar pattern, relating to how the holidays were branded, sold and how the real intentions of the defendant were disguised.
‘In April 2017 one complainant started to hear rumours from friends and acquaintances about Pollard’s activity. When he told the defendant about these rumours he remarked that the ‘rumour mill had been working overtime’ and he was ‘doing everything he can’.
‘Each complainant spent a significant amount on holidays that would never be recovered. His excuse was that things were always outside his control.
‘He hid the truth and strung along the victims for as long as possible but did not have the means to pay them back.’
The court was told Pollard has three previous convictions for five offences, including theft by employee and deception.
In mitigation his lawyer, David Morton, said simply: ‘He is appalled by the way he has acted.’
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First appear at Travel agent scammed friends and family out of £32,000 for non-existent holidays