Travel agent who stole €29,000 from tourists offered discounts to make friends, court said

An independent travel agent who stole nearly €29,000 from 31 tourists has received a fully suspended prison sentence.

Lawyers for Kelli Kilpatrick (34) told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Judge Martin Nolan that in 2017 Kilpatrick began offering to arrange discounted holidays to make friends.

The Dublin woman used her experience working in the corporate travel industry to get vacation packages and travel breaks at discounted prices. Garda Detective John Tuthill told Jane Murphy BL, charging, that word spread among the friends of the Christmas deals and the defendant got busier and busier until things “got out of control”.

Vacation plans included cruises, continental getaways, long-haul flights, and typical vacation packages to Spain and Portugal.

Kilpatrick was unable to keep track of payments and began using deposits paid by customers to top up the costs of other reservations. Some holidays were only partially paid for or not booked at all. In some cases, Kilpatrick falsified receipts and reservation confirmations.

Tourists discovered there were problems before their escapades, while others ended up in foreign destinations only to discover that hotel rooms or return flights were not booked.

toxic relationship

Dt Gda Tuthill agreed with defense attorney John Griffin BL that Kilpatrick contacted Gardai about the scam because he wanted to “clear his conscience” and that he fully cooperated with the subsequent investigation. She told investigators that she had started offering the holidays as a way to make friends after returning to Dublin from a “toxic relationship” in the UK.

Dt Gda Tuthill said there was no evidence Kilpatrick used the money to finance an extravagant lifestyle and that she never made any money.

“It was a network I couldn’t get out of,” he said. He said that in the interview Kilpatrick expressed remorse and acknowledged the anguish he had caused the victims.

Kilpatrick of St Aongus Estate, Tallaght, was charged with 54 counts of theft committed between April 2017 and August 2018. She subsequently pleaded guilty to eight sample charges, with other charges being considered.

Dt Gda Tuthill said the total amount of money stolen was €28,904, with amounts taken from people ranging from €300 to €1,900.

Griffin told the court that his client was previously involved in a toxic violent relationship in Ireland. When this ended, he went to the UK, where he again became involved in a similar type of relationship.

Griffin said that when Kilpatrick returned to Dublin in 2017, he had no friends or confidence, was trying to start his life over and was finding it difficult. She said that she discovered that she could connect with people and make them happy by helping them get really cheaper vacations.

He said that when the scheme became so busy, his client lacked the business acumen to stay on top of it and was trapped in a spiral of debt.

prior conviction

The court heard that Kilpatrick’s only previous conviction is for the theft of £239,000 worth of mobile phones in 2016 in Reading, England. Mr. Griffin said that at the time her client was working for Vodafone and her then-partner “coaxed” her into participating in a scam by processing phone orders.

He asked the court to show leniency, saying his client had done everything he could to repair the damage. She said that she is ashamed of her actions and that she has led a frugal life ever since to save 25,000 euros that she had taken to court to offer to victims.

He said that behind this offensive Kilpatrick was a good person from a decent family. “She is truly sorry for the pain that she has caused,” she said.

Judge Nolan said that Kilpatrick was “stealing from Peter to pay Paul.” He said the Garda’s very fair evidence was that the defendant was unlikely to reoffend.

Kilpatrick sobbed when Judge Nolan concluded that he would not jail her. She suspended a three-year prison sentence on the condition that the €25,000 be handed over and a further €3,000 in compensation be collected and paid in the coming year.

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