Leon Roberts and Jade Muzoka (pictured outside court today) lied about being bedridden with vomiting and diarrhoea and sued the hotel and tour operators Thomsons
A couple caught out on Facebook trying to con £4000 by lying they were taken ill on holiday narrowly avoided jail after a judge slammed them for treating a holiday firm as a ‘soft touch’.
Leon Roberts and Jade Muzoka lied about being bedridden with vomiting and diarrhoea and sued the hotel and tour operators Thomsons.
Days after returning home the bodybuilders uploaded 79 snaps on Facebook showing them smiling as they downed bottles of wine and dined on steak and chips and sushi.
But almost a year later the greedy lovers were approached by a claim company and lodged a false claim for damages saying the food poisoning had ruined their romantic break.
Now the pair have been handed six month jails terms suspended for a year after a judge left them in no doubt that tour companies will be protected in the face of a ‘tsunami’ of false compensation claims.
District Judge Jonathan Taaffe told Roberts and Muzoka both were only saved from a jail term by their early guilty pleas to fraud and the fact neither made a penny from the scam.
Leon Roberts, 38, and mother-of-two Jade Muzoka, 27, claimed damages after their week’s holiday in the resort of Belek
Passing sentence he said: ‘Whether encouraged or not you both contributed to the false claim as both of you were of the view that the holiday company were a soft touch it’s akin to perverting the course of justice.
‘Had the claim continued and payment made I would have no alternative other than an immediate custodial sentence.
‘As for people who persist in submitting blatantly false claims, the courts will rightly regard those as serious and the loss of liberty is inevitable.’
Compensation claims regarding holidays have been dubbed the ‘new whiplash’ with firms seeking to exploit loopholes in the law. ABTA stated.the number of cases has risen 500% in last five years and £240m was falsely claimed in 2016.
The private prosecution, which the judge described as ‘unusual’was brought by the holiday firm which is now known as TUI.
Giving his reasons for the severity of his sentence the judge said: ‘It would fly in the face of common sense in the face of the tsunami of claims to ignore the fact this company feels it necessary to bring a private prosecution.’
District Judge Jonathan Taaffe told Roberts and Muzoka (pictured outside court today) were saved from jail by their early guilty pleas and the fact neither made a penny from the scam
Southern Derbyshire magistrates heard Roberts, 38, and mum-of-two Muzoka, 27, claimed damages after their week’s holiday at the resort of Belek in July 2015.
The complex boasts four outdoor pools, waterslides and sun terraces, a heated circular indoor pool and offers water-skiing, bowling as well as a spa and wellness centre and Turkish baths There’s also a 27-hole championship golf course designed by Nick Faldo for guests to enjoy.
There’s six a la carte restaurants, ten bars and separate buffet restaurant and at night holidaymakers can dance the night away in the open-air disco.
Tim Hunter, representing Tui, told the hearing: ‘Their social media entries made it plain both had a very enjoyable time.’
But 10 months later in April 2016 the couple, who both live in Derby but are no longer together, filed a claim for around £3,000 damages, alleging they had suffered illness which was supported by a doctor’s report.
Almost a year after the holiday the lovers were approached by a claim company and lodged a false claim for damages saying the food poisoning had ruined their romantic break
‘That claim was false’ added Mr Hunter. ‘And they did it to deliberately to try and make benefit for themselves.’
Tui launched an investigation in conjunction with the resort, but could find nothing to support the allegations.
Mr Hunter stated.that given the wealth of cases travel firms are dealing with decisions are being made to prosecute such people in ‘an attempt to stem the flow of false claims’.
Both Roberts and Muzoka pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in relation to their holiday in Turkey in July 2015 at an earlier hearing.
Nicola Hunter, representing mother of two Muzoka, who has an 18 month daughter with Roberts, stated.it had been an ‘opportunistic offence’.
Both Roberts and Muzoka pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in relation to their holiday in Turkey in July 2015 at an earlier hearing
The fitness instructor had become involved in the scam after speaking with a colleague about feeling ill on holiday. The friend took care of the claims, which she admitted was ‘exaggerated’.
When she was eventually challenged about it she quickly dropped the case and was hit with a £600 bill from her ‘no win, no fee’ solicitors.
‘She accepts what she did was dreadfully wrong and naive to think it was not that serious at the time, but that’s the sum total of her culpability,’ added Ms Hunter.
There was no financial loss to the company as Roberts also did not pursue the claim after he too was challenged.
Brendan McGuire for Roberts stated.while he had not initiated the compensation claim he accepted he had ‘readily gone along with it’.
The railway contractor had signed the form and thought no more of it until he was telephoned by a doctor asking him about the alleged food poisoning. A medical report was lodged along with the couple’s claim.
Now the pair have been handed six month jails terms suspended for a year
Speaking about the lawyers and doctors involved Judge Taaffe added: ‘It seems to me there may well be possible evidence of professional misconduct so far as these people are concerned.
‘It’s my judgement that this goes to the very heart of insurance fraud and there is clear evidence before me that this is part of a widespread practice.’
‘Tui felt is is such a massive problem that a private prosecution needed to be brought when it was clear that this was a blatantly false claim.
‘This is not a victimless crime. The costs of these are massive to the companies, all who take a holiday are having to pay more and more for the cost of their insurance, while who make genuine claims are regarded with scepticism.’
As well as the suspended sentences both Roberts and Muzoka were ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work in the community and to pay £1115 each in costs and victim surcharge.