Fitness couple face prison after posting photos to social media
One surprising trend that the legal system and the vacation industry have had to deal with in recent years is an influx of false compensation claims. Many holidayers have come up with the bright idea to make fraudulent claims of illness and mistreatment when abroad on package deals, hoping to squeeze a little money out of big companies.
Bodybuilders Leon Roberts and Jade Muzoka sued the hotel and tour operators Thomson (now known as TUI) after claiming they were stuck in bed with vomiting and diarrhoea after their stay. These claims were eventually found to be fraudulent, after photos on Facebook showed them both drinking, eating, and having a generally good time on their trip in the 79 photos they uploaded.
Southern Derbyshire magistrates were told that the couple claimed damages after spending a week in a holiday resort in Turkey back in 2015. Eventually the couple, who have now split up, admitted to fraud by false representation. District Judge Jonathan Taffe told them that they could potentially face jail time, serving as a deterrent to the "tsunami" of fake compensation claims that have been made recently.
"Both enjoyed a holiday at the Cornerlia Gold Resort and Spa in Turkey in July 2015 which passed without incident or complaint," said Tim Hunter, representing TUI. "Apparently from social media it appears both had a very enjoyable time."
Ten months later in April 2016 the couple filed a claim for £3,000 damages, claiming to have suffered illness, with a doctor's report on hand to back them up. Muzoka apparently became involved in the scam after speaking with a colleague about feeling ill on holiday, who suggested she make an "exaggerated claim". She left it for a while before she was contacted about the case, which she subsequently dropped, still being hit by a £600 bill from her solicitors.
TUI apparently launched an investigation with the resort but found nothing to support the claims, and said that if the claim had been successful it would have cost the company up to £50,000 in legal fees. Muzoka and Roberts' solicitors questioned this figure, while Muzoka said that any investigation was "basic" and they had only really "checked on Facebook".
In his statement on the case, Judge Taffe said:
"That is in the forefront of my mind, it would be flying in the face of common sense to think this is an isolated incident.
It is a very real problems for the holiday companies. The costs are inevitably passed on to genuine people, while others who do suffer illness on their holidays have their claims met with scepticism.
This offence is outside the (sentencing) guidelines because it encourages a tsunami of false claims.
All options are open at this stage and this is a serious case and it may be that a custodial sentence will follow to show the importance of your wrongdoing."
While there have been some who have gotten away from it, it looks like plenty of people are going to be put off trying these kind of schemes out after seeing what happened to these two.