Belfast Telegraph

Travel boss accused of swindling 70 customers in ‘extremely complex’ case

By Deborah McAleese

A criminal case against a travel agent accused of defrauding more than 70 customers out of their money is “extremely complex” and stretches across a number of jurisdictions, a court has heard.

The number of fraud charges against Kathy Maguire, former owner of La Mon Travel Limited in Downpatrick, has grown to almost 70. She also faces 19 charges of theft.

The amount of money involved in the case exceeds £100,000 and there are more than 70 alleged victims.

Maguire, who traded under the name Kathy Ward, was arrested two-and-a-half years ago after a large number of customers complained to police that the holidays they had paid for — which included dream trips across Europe and the United States — had never been booked.

A number of unauthorised transactions were also allegedly made by Maguire from credit cards belonging to customers.

In addition, Maguire is accused of attempting to take out a £25,000 loan in someone else’s name.

The 39-year-old, from Tollymore Brae in Newcastle, was ordered to stop trading after her arrest.

At Downpatrick Magistrate’s Court yesterday it emerged the complex case, which has still not reached trial stage, is to be delayed further after a decision to permit the holding of a preliminary investigation which could run for three days and include evidence from almost 30 witnesses.

Only after this hearing will it be decided if Maguire will finally stand Crown Court trial.

Maguire sat quietly at the back of the court as the judge warned her lawyer that if this had been a case in England it would have gone straight to the Crown Court without any such hearing.

Her boyfriend and co-accused William Mark McConkey (46) sat beside her in the public gallery.

He has been charged with fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, attempted fraud and theft.

The couple’s defence team are hoping that after the preliminary investigation the court will decide there is no criminal case to answer.

Their lawyer yesterday requested an adjournment in the case to check availability of 27 witnesses for the preliminary investigation.

“It is an extremely complex matter which is multi-jurisdictional,” the lawyer said.

Telling the judge the case was a “specialist area” he requested that additional lawyers be allowed to assist during the preliminary investigation.

However, the judge refused and said he did not think it was necessary to grant a certificate for extra counsel. He also refused a request for the couple to be excused from the next court hearing later this month to set a date for the preliminary investigation.

Background

Co Down travel agent Kathy Maguire is facing over 80 fraud and theft charges after allegedly taking money from customers for holidays that she never booked. Some holidaymakers were stranded at airports or arrived at their destination to find their accommodation had not been paid for. Maguire’s boyfriend William Mark McConkey is also facing charges connected with the alleged fraud.

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