A female confidence trickster swindled Derbyshire hoteliers into giving her a free holiday as she ran up unpaid bills off almost £10,000.
Lucie Berry, aged 32, booked luxury holiday lets for herself, her husband, nine-year-old son and two dogs in Bakewell, Baslow, and Matlock during a two months stay in the Peak District.
She sent e-mails in advance giving bank details but the owners only realised they had been fooled when they tried to cash her cheques or take money from her account.
Despite being unemployed and having no income Berry stayed in hotels around Britain and ran up bills totalling £24,000 in six months, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Among the losers were the owners of Bailiffs Cottage at Matlock, the Rutland Arms in Bakewell, and the Cavendish Hotel in Baslow.
She and her family then moved to Devon where one seaside holiday let owner lost £10,000 in business because she booked her house out through the peak summer season and was paid nothing.
Estate manager’s daughter Berry lost her tied house on the land where her father worked and then spent six months wandering around the country leaving a trail of dud cheques.
Berry, of Shetland Way, Immingham, Lincolnshire, admitted eight counts of fraud and asked for five more to be considered.
She was jailed for 40 weeks, suspended for 12 months and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work by Judge Erik Salomonsen.
He told her:”Last year, over a period of six months, you resorted to fraud to improve your financial position.
“These frauds ran to a pattern in which you obtained accommodation or arranged to stay in a variety of hotels and guest houses, mainly in Devon and the Peak District.
“You told hoteliers or those providing hospitality you have the means to pay when you did not. You knew there were insufficient funds in your bank account to meet them.
“The schedule shows some substantial losses but I have to give you credit for your guilty plea and the help you gave the police in clearing up the other offences.
“I accept you have made attempts at reparation but your criminal conduct must be met by a prison sentence. Those who prey on the hospitality of others with no intention of paying can expect custody.
“In my judgment I can properly suspend the sentence. No useful purpose will be served by sending you to prison at public expense.”
Mr Alex Allsop, prosecuting, said:”All these offences represent very similar conduct. She made bookings either at hotels or holiday lets and either says she will pay by cheque, which bounces, or gives bank details which are not honoured.
“In the case of the owner of The Keeping House in Kingsbridge, she lost £10,200 because she was unable to obtain other bookings.
“She would send e-mails asking for availability and then send bank details which proved to be for accounts which were long since shut down. On other occasions she paid by cheques which bounced.
“She normally booked just for herself but then arrived with her husband, young son and two dogs.
“She has offered to make reparation and says some of those who lost money do not want it.
“It seems some of the losers have taken a charitable approach towards her and some have said they feel sorry for her and all she has been through.
“We say this was a confidence fraud with a degree of planning and multiple transactions.”
Mr Allsop said the total amount of all the offences amounted to £24,120. Among the other unpaid bills were £1,200 for the Bailiffs Cottage at Matlock, £3,828 at the Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell, £4,237 at the Cavendish Hotel in Baslow, all in the Peak District.
Mr Warren Robinson, defending, said Berry’s husband is about to start a well paid job and they have already started repaying the money.
He said:”Her father is a farm estate manager in Lincolnshire who was in some conflict with his employers and it resulted in her, her husband and their nine-year-old son losing their home.
“As a result they had no money, they were out of work, and ended up falling into accommodation which they didn’t have the money to pay for.
“It had not been intended, but it became a habit. She stayed in contact with the losers, she did not try to hide from them, they had her mobile number and e-mail address.
“In her mind she told herself these were debts which she would pay back at some later time.”