Man jailed after swindling cash for ‘holidays’

Stephen Reaney.
Stephen Reaney.

A Lurgan man swindled family members by taking money from them for holidays in USA and Cyprus which he never booked.

Thirty three year old Stephen Jonathan Reaney of Houston Park was jailed for a total of five months last Friday at Craigavon Magistrates Court.

Reaney admitted a series of offences which included fraudulently booking holidays to Florida and Cyprus, arranging visas, car hire and theme park tickets, changing sterling to dollars and sterling to euros and also the theft of £320 in cash. These happened between May 1, 2010, and March 22 this year.

The court heard that on October 24, 2011, one of the victims told police that he had given £5,100 to Reaney which was to be used to book a holiday in America in July 2011.

On July 12, 2011, the defendant told them one of the group had pulled out of the holiday and the American Consulate had withdrawn visas and the flights were non refundable.

They attended at the airport in July 12 and the flights were seemingly delayed on several occasions. They stayed there until July 16 when Reaney advised them they would have to go to Glasgow and a further £800 was paid.

At Glasgow one of the party, a woman, took ill and the holiday was cancelled. The money was not refunded.

Inquiries were made to the American Consulate and no visas were ever applied for. The total loss to the injured party was £6,100.

The prosecutor also told the court that on August 9, 2012, the victim said that over the course of six months she had given Reaney £1,250 to book a holiday for herself, her two children and father. She gave him a further £850 which he said he would change into euros.

On August 8 they attended at Belfast International Airport but there was no record of anything being booked. He said a girlfriend from Monaghan had made off with the £850. He gave a name but she could not be found.

An uncle of Reaney told police that on three separate occasions he had provided the defendant with £6,776 in cash. None of the holidays ever took place.

When arrested Reaney maintained the holidays had been arranged but due to a family illness were cancelled.

The court heard that to date the injured parties had not received any money back. The amount came to £13,976.

A barrister for Reaney said it was a pre-planned method to get the victims’ money but there was no degree of sophistication in these frauds.

He explained that the money had been put towards debts of a failed business venture.

District Judge, Mr Mervyn Bates, said it was a serious matter compounded by the number of offences and the period of time they took place. Any kind of breach of trust was serious but this had aggravating factors.

He added that Reaney had been dealing with members of his own family who had to stay overnight at airports for flights that had never been booked.

“You will be serving time as far as I am concerned,” Judge Bates said before sentencing Reaney who was immediately taken into custody.