South Shields holiday cash conwoman warned she faces jail

Ashleigh Turbitt arriving at an earlier court hearing
Ashleigh Turbitt arriving at an earlier court hearing

A conwoman who masterminded a "once in a lifetime" Disney holiday Facebook scam has been warned she could be jailed.

Ashleigh Turbitt offered bargain breaks to Disneyland in Paris through her firm South Shields Day Trips, which were paid for in advance by excited families and then cancelled at the last minute.

Devastated customers, who had worked and saved hard to pay for trips, were left thousands of pounds out of pocket, with upset children being told they were going nowhere.

At Newcastle Crown Court Turbitt, 26, of Belloc Avenue, South Shields, pleaded guilty to fraud between February 2015 and July 2015.

A charge of conspiracy to commit fraud between January 2014 and July 2015, which she denied, will be dropped.

Her partner Christopher Clark, 33, also of Belloc Avenue, denied the same conspiracy charge, which will also be dropped against him.

The court heard the conspiracy charge involved a fraud of over £80,000.

The pair had been due to be tried by a jury next week, which has now been cancelled due to Turbitt's guilty plea.

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby told the court the the police have impact statements from 50 victims who fell prey to Turbitt's fraud.

Mr Cleasby said: "This case involves a number of victims who sought to purchase these holidays from Miss Turbitt.

"The officer in the case has attended with personal statements from 50 victims who have suffered. On some, the impact upon them has been significant in the extreme.

"These are once in a lifetime trips people have strived to afford."

Mr Cleasby said Turbitt will now be pursued under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which means any assets she has may be seized.

Judge Tim Gittins adjourned sentence until March and said Turbitt could have bail in the meantime.

The judge warned her: "I cannot give you any indication as to what the sentence will be. You appreciate these are serious matters.

"I do not know enough about the case or enough about you as an individual to give you any indication.

"All options are open, that includes custody."

Graeme Cook, defending, told the court pre-sentence and medical reports will be prepared on Turbitt before the case is back in court.

Turbitt admitted the lesser charge on a specific basis, which was not outlined in court.