Take That fans are conned out of £65,000, court is told
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A travel company boss conned customers out of more than £65,000 and left scores of Take That fans bitterly disappointed after he tricked them into buying tickets for the group's sell-out come back concerts at Wembley.
Symon Webb, 46, who also used the names Thorp and Hoffreiter, traded as Lowestoft Travel from June 2009 onwards running day trips and holidays by coach and was described by a judge as a 'confidence trickster'.
Norwich Crown Court heard how Webb, a director of the travel firm, took £36,109 for Take That tickets for their sell-out concerts at Wembley, when in fact he had not secured any tickets and instead left customers waiting in vain for coaches, which did not arrive.
He also fraudulently took bookings for European coach holidays in the sun, and ripped off customers hoping to see West End shows.
David Wilson, prosecuting, said despite high demand for tickets for the Take That concerts Webb claimed that Lowestoft Travel could get tickets, mainly for the July 3 concert.
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But in December 2010 it was cancelled, so Webb then offered other dates.
'It is of course curious that Webb was able to offer other alternative dates to customers when tickets were so scarcely available. The obvious answer was that no such tickets were held. The offering of alternative dates was in order to limit the number of refunds Webb had to provide.'
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He said in total he obtained over £36,109 for tickets for the Take That concerts.
Mr Wilson said: 'The concerts went ahead, but for the customers due to travel via Lowestoft Travel they were to be disappointed. Many customers were left standing in vain for coaches which did not arrive. Indeed no trips at all operated after March 15. Had such tickets existed then of course irrespective of the absence of coach travel, the customers would still have had the concert tickets available to them. The absence of provision of such tickets indicates that no such tickets ever existed.'
He said that Webb also took payments for holidays and other trips amounting to £14,400 and when there was not enough potential passengers to make a trip or holiday viable, staff described it as full.
However, the scam started to unravel after Webb and two of his drivers were arrested in Dover on June 30, 2010 in relation to the importation of drugs and Webb, in March 2011, was jailed for four years for trying to import cannabis with a street value of £68,000.
Mr Wilson said: 'His arrest appears to have been a trigger for further acts of a dishonest nature with Lowestoft Travel.'
After Webb was jailed, customers, who had paid for a trip to Spain, were due to leave on March 18, found that the hotel had not been booked and the costs of just the hotel alone was more than what customers had been charged.
Mr Wilson said the trip would never have been viable.
On March 16, 2011 Lowestoft Travel based at Hopton Timber Yard ceased operations. Mr Wilson said the company had left a number of debts, including nearly £1,000 to a printing company. Mr Wilson said Lowestoft Travel also lacked a public service vehicle licence, which was essential for any coach travel company and used forged documents to back up his business.
He also falsely represented that customer deposits were protected, when no such bond was in place.
'Had a bond in reality existed then customers would have had the opportunity of refunds on purchases for trips and excursions they had paid for.'
Webb of Duke Place, Slough, admitted fraudulent trading and was jailed for 16 months and banned from being a company director for seven years. The court heard he had previous convictions for fraud and sentencing him Judge Nicholas Coleman described him as a 'confidence trickster'.
He told Webb: 'It was a series of dishonest acts and it took place over a long period of time and there was a significant loss in excess of £60,000.'
'All those disappointed people must even now be cursing under their breath for what you did. One can forgive them that feeling.'
Claire Davies, for Webb, said that he had been running a successful business and there were satisfied customers but as he got into debt he struggled to keep the business going.
'He would wish to compensate people but at the moment he cannot do so.'