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Travel agency that stole €29,000 from holidaymakers escapes jail

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A freelance travel agent who stole almost 29,000 euros from 31 holidaymakers has been sentenced to imprisonment with a suspended sentence.

Lawyers for Kelli Kilpatrick, 34, told Judge Martin Nolan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that Kilpatrick began arranging discounted holidays in 2017 to make friends.

The Dublin woman used her experience in the business travel industry to source package holidays and breaks at great prices.

Detective Garda John Tuthill told prosecutors Jane Murphy BL word of the holiday deals spread among friends and the accused became increasingly busy until things “got out of hand”.

Holiday plans included cruises, continental tours, long haul flights and typical package holidays in Spain and Portugal.

Kilpatrick was unable to keep track of payments and began using customer deposits to complete the cost of others’ bookings.

Some holidays were only partially paid for or not booked at all.

In some cases, Kilpatrick forged receipts and booking confirmations.

Vacationers learned of problems beforehand, while others landed abroad only to find hotel rooms or return flights unbooked.

Dt Gda Tuthill agreed with defender John Griffin BL that Kilpatrick contacted Gardaí about the fraud because she wanted to “clear her conscience” and that she fully cooperated in the ensuing investigation.

She told investigators she began offering the holidays to make friends after returning to Dublin from a “toxic relationship” in the UK.

Dt Gda Tuthill said this was not evidence Kilpatrick used the money to fund an extravagant lifestyle and that she herself never made any money.

“It was a web she couldn’t get out of,” he said.

He said Kilpatrick expressed remorse in the interview and acknowledged the distress she caused the victims.

Kilpatrick, of St Aongus Estate, Tallaght, has been charged with 54 robberies committed between April 2017 and August 2018.

She then pleaded guilty to eight counts, with other counts being considered.

Dt Gda Tuthill said the total amount of money stolen was €28,904, with amounts stolen from individuals ranging from €300 to €1,900.

Mr Griffin told the court his client had previously been involved in a toxic violent relationship in Ireland.

When this ended, she went to the UK, where she again became involved in a similar type of relationship.

Mr Griffin said when Kilpatrick returned to Dublin in 2017 she had no friends and no confidence, was trying to start her life over and finding it difficult.

He said she found she could connect with people and make them happy by helping get really cheaper vacations.

He said by the time the venture got as busy as it was, his client lacked the business acumen to stay on top of things and he was spiraling into debt.

The court heard Kilpatrick’s only previous conviction was for the £239,000 mobile phone theft in 2016 in Reading, England.

Mr Griffin said his client was working for Vodafone at the time and was “persuaded” by her partner at the time to take part in a scam by processing orders for phones.

He asked the court for leniency and said his client had done everything to make amends.

He said she was ashamed of her actions and has since lived a frugal life to save €25,000, which she took to court to offer to victims.

He said that behind that insulting Kilpatrick was a good man from a decent family.

“She’s really sorry for the pain she caused,” he said.

Judge Nolan said Kilpatrick “robbed Peter to pay Paul”.

He said the Garda’s very fair evidence was that the accused was unlikely to re-offend.

Kilpatrick sobbed as Judge Nolan concluded he would not lock her up.

He has suspended a three-year prison sentence with the condition that he hand over the 25,000 euros and collect and pay out a further 3,000 euros in compensation next year.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/travel-agent-who-stole-29000-from-holiday-makers-avoids-jail-41599021.html Travel agency that stole €29,000 from holidaymakers escapes jail

Fry Electronics Team

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