A mum who conned families into believing they had paid for dream holidays to Disneyland and other fun destinations has been labelled “scum” by one of her victims.
Ashleigh Turbitt convinced South Tyneside customers they could have bargain coach trips to Euro Disney in Paris, through her firm South Shields Day Trips - falsley claiming the company, which she advertised through Facebook, was fully insured and subsidised through Government grants for those on a limited income.
But parents and children were stunned to find out that the trips did not exist until the day before they were due to set off.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Turbitt had not booked any of the coach or ferry travel, hotels or park tickets she had been paid for but used the cash for spa trips, Sky TV, online gambling, spending sprees on clothes and electronics, and paying off debts.
The court heard that children’s excitement was built by “golden tickets” packed in glitter-filled envelopes – given to parents when they booked.
In the space of one month Turbitt blew £14,500 of her victims’ cash, while in another month she spent £8,000.
Turbitt’s victims spoke out about being duped by her and their rage at a judge’s decision to give her a suspended jail term.
Mum Kerry Devonport, 43, lost more than £2,000 after making a group booking to go to Disneyland with her sons Jack Proctor, 14, and Jayden Devenport, seven, and other family members.
Kerry, of Simonside, South Shields, said: “I saw her company advertised on Facebook and, because I knew people who had used her before and they said she was genuine, I saw no problem in booking up.
“When everythinig unfolded I was totally shocked and devastated. We’ve lost more than £2,200 altogether.
The court heard a total of 151 families paid for the trips but were left out of pocket and with nowhere to go.
Turbitt, 26, of Belloc Avenue, South Shields, admitted fraud by representation between February and July 2015.
She admitted pocketing £46,000 through the scam and has now been ordered to pay back the £14,513 police seized from her bank accounts or face going to jail for nine months.
She was also ordered to carry out 240 hours’ unpaid work and abide by a nine-month curfew, from 7pm to 7am.
But Kerry, along with other victims, say the sentence handed down by Recorder Keither Miller does not go far enough.
She said: “There is no doubt in our minds that she should have gone to prison. She’s only really got a curfew against her and is still free to go out and about every day.
“She is just scum.”
Grandmother Hilda Clayton, 54, who says she was conned out of £1,000 and her family and friends about £7,000 by Turbitt, spoke of her fury at the sentence handed down by Recorder Miller.
“What is the judge thinking?” said mum-of-seven Hilda, of Lincoln Road in South Shields.
“They are not thinking about the victims in all of this, the parents and children who had suitcases packed to go on holidays which they found out didn’t exist.”