British court sentences bodybuilding couple who faked holiday sickness but were ‘rumbled’ on Facebook
A man and a woman who fraudulently claimed they fell ill while on holiday in Turkey, but were “rumbled” by images they posted on social media, have been given suspended jail sentences by a British court.
The move was welcomed by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which is campaigning to stamp out spurious sickness claims.
Southern Derbyshire magistrates court heard that bodybuilders Leon Roberts, 37, and Jade Muzoka, 27, spent a week at the luxury Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort and Spa in Turkey in July 2015.
The following April, the pair submitted claims through their solicitor saying they both fell ill with food poisoning during their stay.
But investigators found photographs on Facebook of the couple, who have since split, lounging by the swimming pool, drinking and eating dinner.
After hearing how a solicitor, a doctor and a claims management company had helped to prepare the “blatantly false” claim to the travel company Tui, the district judge, Jonathan Taaffe, said: “It would fly in the face of common sense for me to ignore the fact that a holiday company feel it necessary, because of a tsunami of claims, to bring a private prosecution.”
Taaffe suspended both defendants’ jail terms for 12 months, ordered them to undertake 200 hours of unpaid community work, and handed them a bill for £1,115 (US$1,544) to cover court costs and a victim surcharge.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “Today’s sentencing sends out the clearest possible message that the courts take a very dim view of anyone submitting a fraudulent holiday sickness claim. There has been a huge rise in these types of fraudulent claims, which are costing hotels and travel companies tens of millions of pounds.”
A spokesperson for Tui UK & Ireland said the outcome was “another clear warning of the risks of making an exaggerated sickness claim and the judge was very clear in his view on this type of behaviour”.
Last year, the government pledged to step up attempts to eliminate fake holiday sickness scams, after a middle-aged British couple who had boasted on social media about “sun, laughter and fun” on their holidays were jailed over making false insurance claims.
Deborah Briton and Paul Roberts tried to claim £20,000 in compensation by claiming they and their two children had fallen ill on holidays to Mallorca in 2015 and 2016.
Tanzer said: “The government must make good its promise to bring overseas personal injury and sickness claims into the fixed legal cost regime – which will cap the exorbitant fees many solicitors are charging on the back of false sickness claims – in time for this year’s holiday season.”