Belfast Telegraph

Travel firm owner accused of defrauding customers

A Co Down travel agent who is accused of taking money from a large number of clients for holidays that she never booked has appeared in court charged with fraud.

As she stood head bowed in the dock at Downpatrick Magistrates Court yesterday, Kathy Maguire, who traded under the name Kathy Ward, was watched by a number of angry travellers who she |allegedly defrauded.

The 37-year-old, from Tollymore Brae in Newcastle, faced a total |of 17 fraud charges, including |dishonestly taking monies for a holiday and no holiday booking being made.

She was also charged with fraudulently applying for a loan |in someone else's name and |for making a number of unauthorised transactions on clients' |credit cards.

Maguire, who was the owner of La Mon Travel Agency in Downpatrick when the alleged frauds were committed between October 2009 and January this year, was joined in the dock by her boyfriend and co-accused, William Mark McConkey.

McConkey (44), who worked with Maguire, face a total of 14 fraud charges, including conspiring to commit fraud by false representation, fraud by false representation and attempted fraud by false representation.

The officer in charge of the case told the court that she believed she could connect the accused with the charges against them.

The pair's defence solicitor Niall Murphy, from Kevin Winters & Co Solicitors, said this was an |“evidentially flawed case in terms of criminal culpability”.

He described it as a “cautionary tale of a business trying its |best, but going bust”, and said |it is a “civil case at best”, not a criminal case.

Mr Murphy added that there was no personal gain to either defendant. He also said that Maguire and McConkey had |voluntarily attended with police on 10 separate days over three weeks in November for a “marathon interview procedure”.

The court was told that this |is a complex case, with a large number of injured parties.

A PPS lawyer said that a full file has not yet been submitted and that it was not yet anywhere near ready to be submitted.

District Judge Mervyn Bates told the court he was satisfied there is a case to answer. He |released the pair on their own bail of £800 each.

They were both ordered to surrender their passports and Maguire was told that she is not permitted to operate a business as a travel agent. The case has been adjourned until February.

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