Page last updated at 18:15 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 19:15 UK

Gang jailed for 6m holiday scam

Christakis Philippou and Evangela Liogka
Christakis Philippou (left) masterminded the scheme

A gang that cheated thousands of people in a 6m holiday scam have been jailed for up to seven years each.

Their fraudulent empire of bogus "bargain breaks" funded a lavish lifestyle, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Timothy Entwisle, of Dorset, and Evangela Liogka and Christakis Philippou, both from London, were all found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

Peter Kemp, of Hertfordshire, who earlier admitted the same charge, was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

An estimated 20,000 people, all of whom booked holidays online or through a TV text service, are thought to have been duped by the gang.

'Illegal immigrants'

Many arrived at airports to find their flights did not exist while others reached their destination to discover there was no hotel booking.

One couple were branded "illegal immigrants" when they arrived in Cyprus without a hotel reservation, breaching local laws requiring accommodation before landing.

Meanwhile the gang members enjoyed first-class flights, five-star luxury, designer clothes and expensive cars.

Jurors heard Entwisle's former home in Sutton Montis, Yeovil, Somerset, was a 1m, 11-bedroomed mansion and his three children were privately educated.

Philippou's 2m home boasted 20,000 worth of silk curtains and soft furnishings and a state-of-the-art kitchen while Liogka splashed out on designer clothes and a six-carat 100,000 diamond ring.

Peter Kemp (l) and Timothy Entwisle
Peter Kemp (left) was banned from running a business for 15 years

The court heard that a total of 26 "front" operations were identified, although only five involving an estimated 6m plus losses featured in the trial.

Of this, 5.6m has disappeared and had to be repaid to customers by credit card companies, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Entwisle, 57, of Childcombe, near Bridport, and Philippou, 64, of Bark Place, Bayswater, west London, were both convicted of five counts of conspiracy to defraud between July 2003 and August 2006.

Philippou, who masterminded the scheme, was jailed for seven years while Entwisle was sentenced to three years in prison.

Liogka, 40, of Montpelier Place, Knightsbridge, central London, was found guilty on three counts of the same charge and jailed for three-and-a-half years.

All three had denied the charges claiming co-defendant and self-confessed conman Kemp, 54, of Goffs Oak, Waltham Cross, and two others - now dead - were to blame.

Kemp was handed a 15-year company directorship ban and the others received similar disqualifications of between five and 10 years.

Passing sentence Judge Andrew Goymer said all four had taken part in "what I can only describe as a cynical and greedy fraud".

"These offences took place on such a scale and for such a length of time, they are too serious to be dealt with by anything other than substantial prison sentences," he added.

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Pair face holiday fraud charges
21 Aug 06 |  London

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