travel agent was facing a lengthy jail term after she admitted defrauding friends, family and hundreds of customers who bought holidays from her in a £2.6 million con.
Lyne Barlow, 39, who previously lived in Stanley, County Durham, was the subject of a lengthy police investigation after victims came forward in 2020 to allege they had not received holidays they had paid for.
She will appear at Durham Crown Court on Friday after she admitted theft of £500,000 from one person, 10 counts of fraud and a money laundering charge totalling £1,688,220.
Barlow claimed to be suffering from a terminal illness while she was carrying out the con, the court heard at a previous hearing.She did much untold damage to local travel agents who simply could not compete at the unrealistic prices
She did much untold damage to local travel agents who simply could not compete at the unrealistic prices
Her first victims were family and friends and she used their savings before setting up an independent travel agency, in which she fraudulently sold holidays, claiming them to be ATOL and ABTA protected, Durham Police said.
But many of her customers were to find that the holidays they booked through her business were never paid for by her.
A local travel industry source said Barlow would offer deals such as a five star all-inclusive week in Dubai for just £500.
The source said: “She did much untold damage to local travel agents who simply could not compete at the unrealistic prices.
“We tried to tell numerous people it wasn’t right but as some people were travelling and getting the holidays at these prices – she was clearly funding the shortfall with other people’s money – they wouldn’t believe it.
“We even contacted her ourselves and tried to call her out but she wasn’t fazed in the least and actually tried to recruit us to work for her.
“She lied about having the relevant licences to trade.
“We contacted police but were informed that as people were getting their holidays, at this point there was nothing they could do.
“People were literally throwing money at her.”
The industry source said: “Barlow told her customers the reason her holidays were so cheap was because travel agents – legitimate ones – were charging large mark-ups on holidays, when in fact it was her prices that were too good to be true.”
The court heard previously that the prosecution claimed the total of offending reached £2.6 million, though the defence will challenge that figure.
After she admitted the charges, Judge James Adkin granted her bail but warned her: “It’s prison, and a long prison sentence.”