A businessman who duped travellers out of £26,000 by selling tickets for non-existent flights was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court today (25 September).
Dean Patrick Oliver, 46, of Cranswick Street, Manchester, was also disqualified from holding any directorships for seven years, after a jury found him guilty, in July 2014, of 21 offences.
He was sentenced to a total of two years and nine months for 19 offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and three months for two offences under Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, which will be served consecutively.
Birmingham City Council brought the case against Oliver following a raft of complaints from consumers in Birmingham, London, Sandwell and Manchester, who lost hundreds of pounds when tickets booked through his companies failed to arrive, leaving their holiday plans in disarray.
Customers who booked trips through Oliver’s businesses lost between £360 to £4,500 each on flights that never took off or even existed, with the total cost to his victims topping £26,000. However many of them were forced to buy replacement tickets in order to reach their destination, in some cases to attend family events and weddings.
Oliver, who operated three businesses between March 2011 and August 2012 from a number of sites – including offices at Elite House, in Warwick Street, Digbeth – appeared to target Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, with most customers buying flights to Pakistan and Nigeria.
He hired staff to sell these flights through word of mouth and encouraged them to tell friends and family to buy tickets through his company, Vision Investment and Travel Group Ltd – which is no longer trading.
However, like his customers, Oliver’s employees were also duped as they were never paid – despite receiving payslips. Oliver also failed to pay full rent or business rates on his offices at Elite House.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “I welcome today’s sentencing of Dean Oliver, which sends a clear message to con artists operating in our city: you will be found out and face enforcement action – including prosecution.
“Many of these people, who trusted him to provide flights, effectively had to pay double in order to go on their holidays.
“While we will do everything possible to protect travellers from rogue travel agents, consumers need to be aware of that the business or person they book with must have an ATOL licence, to ensure they are fully protected.”
Note to editors:
Sajeela Naseer, Head of Trading Standards for Birmingham City Council, is available for interview after sentencing.
A written case study is also available on request.