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Criminal court to handle alleged travel fraud case

The Public Prosecution Service has insisted it will be proceeding with a criminal case against a travel agent who allegedly took money from customers but never booked their holidays.

Co Down travel agent Kathy Maguire has been charged in connection with a suspected £100,000 fraud which left a large number of her customers unable to travel, or left stranded at airports after their trips were not paid for.

Her lawyer has argued that the case should be a “civil case at best”, not a criminal case, describing it as a “cautionary tale of a business trying its best, but going bust”.

But at Downpatrick Magistrates Court yesterday a lawyer for the PPS said that the case will proceed on indictment, meaning it will be treated as a criminal case.

Ms Maguire, who is also known as Kathy Ward, appeared in the dock with her boyfriend and co-accused William Mark McConkey for the brief hearing.

A number of her alleged victims, who lost large amounts of money after booking holidays through her Downpatrick-based travel agency, La Mon Travel, were also in court.

Ms Maguire allegedly swindled over £100,000 from people who booked holidays through her travel agency, which has since closed. Police have taken complaints from at least 100 clients, some who have claimed to have lost thousands of pounds.

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The 38-year-old has been charged with 17 counts of fraud, including dishonestly taking monies for a holiday and no holiday booking being made.

She has also been charged with fraudulently applying for a loan in someone else’s name and making unauthorised transactions on clients’ credit cards.

Mr McConkey also faces a string of related fraud charges.

A full criminal file against the pair has still not been finalised because of the enormity of the case, the court was told.

The district judge told Ms Maguire and Mr McConkey that he would have to adjourn the case until July as the police investigation was still ongoing.

He said because it was a “massive case”, a lot of work was involved.

Last week the court relaxed Ms Maguire’s bail conditions to allow her to go on holiday to Spain, angering many of her alleged victims.

When she was charged in December, Ms Maguire, from Tollymore Brae in Newcastle, was ordered to surrender her passport. But following an application from her solicitor the court agreed that she could go on a five-day holiday to Spain at the end of the month with a friend.

Background

La Mon Travel Agency in Downpatrick was forced to close last year when police began an investigation into the business dealings of the owner, Kathy Maguire, and her partner Mark McConkey.

Officers had received complaints from over 100 customers, who said their holidays were never paid for, they were left stranded at airports or had unauthorised money taken from their bank accounts. The pair have both been charged with fraud.


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