A businessman has been branded “dishonest and fraudulent” by a judge for running a luxury holiday scam.
Keith Pillinger fleeced Joy and Mark Fisher out of more than £3,000 by promising them access to dream breaks for reduced prices in return for their money.
But Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard earlier this month that they received nothing but a catalogue of excuses from the 52-year-old and a trading standards probe revealed the couple were his only customers.
Pillinger, of Bromford Drive, Castle Bromwich, had admitted breaching consumer protection from unfair trading regulations.
And at a second hearing held on Tuesday, District Judge Ian Strongman dismissed his claims that he never intended to mislead or fleece clients.
He said: “I reject the basis of plea and find him to be dishonest and fraudulent.”
Pillinger, a former timeshare and holiday scheme salesman, earlier told the court that his business had floundered because he had not been able to sign up more customers.
“I expected to get one or two customers a week which would have enabled me to fulfil my obligations,” he said. “I just couldn’t get another customer.
“I told them (the Fishers) there were processing problems, I didn’t know what else to say to them.
“They were lovely people, they took me into their home as I explained a beautiful product to them, but I was unable to fulfil it.
“I’m really sorry to Mr and Mrs Fisher, I never for one second expected this situation to arise.”
Pillinger told the judge that he had sleepless nights over his failing business and came close to a nervous breakdown.
But Judge Strongman rejected his version of events and said he deliberately set out to rip off customers by offering a product he did not have.
He added that Pillinger’s website, which boasted a ‘dedicated sales team’ and listed his council flat as a ‘suite’, was designed to mislead customers.
Judge Strongman committed Pillinger to Birminghan Crown Court for sentencing on September 12.
At the initial hearing, Bally Paul, defending, said her client had not set out to “rip anyone off”.
“He has been working as a salesman for 18 years and the contacts were there in the holiday industry to set this up as a legitimate business,” she said.
“But the contracts (with the other holiday firms) weren’t bound and the agreement with the Fishers was made prematurely.
“Everything was in the pipeline to deal with it, his hard work was coming together.”