Freelancer escapes prison sentence for second time
Freelance travel agent’s business was booming until she landed herself with a suspended prison sentence
Dublin-based freelance travel agent, Kelli Kilpatrick, 34, mishandled nearly €29,000 from 31 holidaymakers and has received a fully suspended prison sentence. The thing is, this isn’t the first time the accused has “robbed Peter to pay Paul.”
Kilpatrick, while working in Newbury in the UK just a few years ago, was involved in a scam involving £239,000 (€283,000) worth of stolen Vodafone mobile phones and tablets.
However, the most recent legal case had lawyers for Kelli Kilpatrick, telling Judge Martin Nolan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, that in 2017 Kilpatrick began offering to arrange discounted holidays to make friends.
According to several reports, the Dublin woman had work experience in the corporate travel sector so knew how to get package holiday deals and as such offered new acquaintances cut-price holidays. Word spread and “things got out of control”, according to Detective Garda John Tuthill.
Kilpatrick couldn’t keep up with demand, and didn’t have the business acumen to organise bookings or keep up with payments so started using funds from one holidaymaker deposit to pay for another.
Some of the holidays were overseas and some of her customers were left stranded with no hotel booked and no return flights. Some holidays were only partially paid for, or not booked at all.
In some cases, Kilpatrick falsified receipts and confirmations of bookings, reported The Independent.
“Kilpatrick sobbed as Judge Nolan concluded he would not jail her. He suspended a three-year prison term on condition that the €25,000 be handed over and that a further €3,000 be collected and paid over in compensation in the next year,” said The Irish Examiner.
Two times lucky, or not?
She told investigators that she had begun offering the holidays as a way to make friends after returning to Dublin from a “toxic relationship” in the UK. A relationship which ended up with Kilpatrick being “put upon” by her partner to allegedly order mobile phones for corporate accounts such as Accor hotels and sell them for a profit to friends, colleagues and on eBay.
According to a report by The Reading Chronicle, Kilpatrick at the time was managing several important accounts for Vodafone, including Apple and Bose, while based at the company’s headquarters in Newbury.
The court previously heard how she had control of the accounts and placed orders, costing Vodafone more than £200,000 in lost earnings.
An internal investigation was launched after certain clients had “rejected orders” asking for the goods to be delivered personally by Kilpatrick instead of a courier.
William Eaglestone, prosecuting, said back in 2018: “If the clients wanted the handsets, they could have those delivered to them personally and that is when Vodafone became suspicious.”