EXCLUSIVE by Wendy Williams
A BRITISH expat wanted for dodging a five star hotel bill has a track record for conning people on the Costa del Sol, the Olive Press can reveal.
A host of victims have come forward to denounce ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ charmer Alwyn Funke – who fled the Gran Hotel Guadalpin Banus owing 1,200 euros two months ago.
Over half a dozen readers insist they have lost tens of thousands of euros after falling victim to the gardener, who was struck off as a company director for 12 years in the UK.
“He is a conman by habit – not for lack of money – and he is very clever,” explained florist Zoe Strutton, 48, from Nueva Andalucia.
It comes after Strutton’s business Flowers Inc found itself hundreds of euros out of pocket after undertaking work for Funke last year.
“He promised faithfully to pay but said he was waiting for funds from a job he had done in the UK. There were lots of excuses,” she added.
This is seemingly the modus operandi of Funke, whose gardening business The Flower House Group racked up debts of nearly two million euros in the UK.
By the time it was struck off it had 10 insolvent companies, with Funke and partner Alexe Meddings misappropriating funds, misusing bank accounts and failing to do proper accounting.
This, of course, is little consolation to expats, such as Elizabeth Rostron, 58, who lost 10,000 euros to Funke after she hired him in Elviria nine years ago. “He seemed a nice man, as all conmen do, and we initially accepted his quote for the work,” she said.
But as soon as the job started he told them he needed more money and then, after receiving a lump sum of 10,000 euros, he vanished.
“After four months we decided to cut our losses. The garden was in a worse state than before. We had no choice but to get a new landscaper which cost us another 12,000 euros on top. Every time we have seen him since he has done a runner before we can speak to him.”
Sally Duffy, 54, from Dublin, had a similar experience when she hired him to fence her garden in 2006.
“He said it would cost about 10,000 euros and we gave him 5,000 euros up front to buy materials. But later he rang and said the patio had ‘dropped’ and he needed more money to fix it.
“In total we gave him 11,000 euros and the patio was never built. In the end we had to pay someone else to do it.”
Others who lost out to Funke include friends Steve and Diana Elson, who lent him 1,000 euros over a number of months, only getting a small amount back.
Referring to him as ‘the scarlet pimpernel’, Steve, 55, said: “He charms you into lending him money and, as he seems so genuine, you do. But he is a compulsive liar, and has ripped many people off. One girl we know ended up giving him thousands, which she never got back.”
He added: “He is always looking for the next person to con. He just can’t help himself.”
When the Olive Press managed to track Funke down he insisted it was ‘all untrue’.
Funke, who lives in Nueva Andalucia, said: “This is unbelievable and a vendetta started by an old friend.
“Why didn’t these people mention this before? It is years ago. If someone ripped me off 10,000 euros I would get a solicitor. I have nothing to answer.”