Con-artist steals friends holiday money 016

By Craig Davidson, Deadline



A SERIAL con-artist tricked thousands of pounds out of customers in a village pub through bogus holidays.


Pub manager Mary Brown, 46, befriended the patrons at the Anchor Inn in South Queensferry and promised them cheap trips abroad through her ‘contacts’ in the travel world.


While a few trips did go ahead, gambling addict Brown pocketed more than £6,000 from several customers from holidays she never booked.


She also managed to loan another £7,000 from two older friends at the pub with false pity stories about her mother and daughter.


Her scam only came to light when her victims read about her in papers after she was jailed for a similar fraud posing as a travel agent in Airdrie.


Amazingly, Brown carried out the fraud on the Anchor Inn punters while she was waiting to be sentenced for the other scam.


Yesterday, the gambling addict was described as ‘having a brass neck’ by Sheriff Mhairi Stephen after Brown admitted defrauding £13,150 from the Anchor Inn customers.


She was told that jail would be ‘the correct sentence’ for her crimes but reports were ordered after Brown offered to pay the money back and sentence was deferred until last month.


Mary Brown, of Restalrig Drive, Edinburgh, was immediately popular at the Anchor Inn when she was given the job as manager in Janury 2006 and became friends with many of the regular customers.


She became even more well-liked when she offered to source a series of cheap holidays for the customers through her contacts in the travel agency business where she had once worked.


A number of the customers were able to go on holidays to Turkey and Tenerife through this arrangement and nobody suspected anything when she started to arrange even more.


But the customers started to become frustrated between February and June 2006 when some of the planned holidays hit delays, including a Mediterranean cruise, a family holiday to Euro Disney and a trip for three to the Belgian city of Brugge.


In all, five customers and one member of staff had paid over £6,150 to Brown for four different holidays.


But in reality, the devious manageress hadn’t booked any of them and pocketed the money for herself to cover the gambling debts she had run up at the casino.


At the same time, she had approached two of those customers, 59-year-old Sheena McMorrine and Gerlad McGennity (61) for additional loans.


She told Ms McMorrine that her mother needed an emergency operation and managed to get £4,000 from her on June 2.


Mr McGennity, who is married and has an adult son, also gave her £3,000 around the same time for her daughter after Brown had claimed she had lost her handbag the day before she was due to travel to Orlando on holiday.


Both hard luck stories were false in a bid to cover her spiraling debts.


She managed to keep the scam going until she was jailed in June 2006 for another holiday fraud carried out in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire.


At the time, Brown had told them she was away caring for her sick mother rather attending court for fraud.


The resulting press coverage left her victims in South Queensferry stunned that their ‘friend’ had tricked them.


They read that Brown had posed as a travel agent after being sacked as a call centre manager with Teletech UK and conned dozens of families out of nearly £30,000 in 2001.


She had carried out the South Queensferry fraud while on bail from Airdrie Sheriff Court and she knew she would be jailed for the original crime in June 2006.


Brown, who was separated from her now-reconciled husband at the time, served just four months of her 17-month sentence for the Airdrie fraud.


During this time, the South Queensferry victims came forward and she was charged with a further fraud while in prison.


Yesterday, Brown admitted three counts of fraud amounting to £13,150 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. All three charges had bail aggravations.


Simon Whyte, acting for Brown, said: “At the time of the offence she had gambling problems, was behind in her rent and had other debts.


“But it was always destined to unravel and was never more than a short term fraud.”


He also pointed out that she regained employment since leaving prison and had more than £3,000 in savings that she wished to pay back.


But Sheriff Stephen warned her that prison was the most likely option in deferring for reports.


She said: “It almost beggars belief that you would carry on with this form of fraud.”


Brown, who has another criminal record for dishonesty in 1996, will be sentenced next month.