A couple who are accused of leaving holidaymakers thousands of pounds out of pocket after fronting a Facebook discount travel scam have appeared in court.
Ashleigh Turbitt and Christopher Clark are alleged to have been paid more than £80,000 after offering cheap travel services through their South Shields Day Trips online site – only for the trips to be cancelled at the last minute.
A police investigation was sparked last year after families complained that a bargain break in Disneyland in Paris – which they had paid for in advance – was cancelled just days before they were due to set off.
More than 200 people contacted police in the wake of the shock holiday cancellation to log their complaints.
South Tyneside Council also fielded a string of calls from upset people who saw their Disney dreams turned into a nightmare.
Stunned parents were left to tell their devastated children that the holiday getaway they were looking forward to had fell through.
The case is so serious that it should be sent to Newcastle Crown CourtDave Errington, chair of the magistrates
Officers took statements from more than 100 people affected at a private meeting at Chuter Ede School last August as a fraud probe got under way.
Turbitt, 25 and Clark, 33, who live together in Belloc Avenue, South Shields, appeared in the dock side by side at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
The offence is alleged to have been carried out between January 31, 2014 and January 24 of last year.
The pair are charged with offering discounted travel services and taking payment for the trips and making a gain of £81,080.38 after failing to provide the paid-for trips.
Neither entered pleas during a short hearing at the court.
Jeanette Smith, prosecuting, said the charges were so serious that the matter should be dealt with at Newcastle Crown Court.
Mrs Smith told magistrates: “The charges are indictable only and I would invite you to send both defendants to Newcastle Crown Court for a preliminary hearing.”
Dave Errington, chairman of the magistrates, said: “The case is so serious that it should be sent to Newcastle Crown Court.”
Turbitt and Clark will both appear before Newcastle Crown Court on Tuesday, April 19.
Both were granted unconditional bail until then.