A BRITISH couple conned out of €2,800 through a fake holiday website have turned detective and had a Spanish fraudster convicted.
However, the angry holidaymakers are now demanding action after the Granada-based businessman failed to return their money, despite a court order.
The couple, Lucia and Peter Myers, both 54, from London, are furious that he only paid two instalments out of an agreed 11, after being found guilty of the elaborate scam.
A Spanish court sentenced Alvaro Lopez Uribe to six months jail for ruining their holiday in Mallorca last year and then suspended the term on condition he re-paid the couple.
And despite Uribe believed to be behind dozens of holiday scams, he has now declared himself insolvent and the court has therefore declared the case over.
“I thought that the lockdown might have been why we have had no payment for months, but then I got an email informing us that the matter was now ended,” IT specialist Lucia told the Olive Press this week.
She and husband Peter, who runs an IT business, had handed over the cash via a bank transfer to pay for a one-week stay at an upmarket villa near Palma, in 2017.
But just the day before they were due to fly out, they were told the villa was no longer available.
The couple, who were travelling with their two children, Julia, 15 and Alicia, nine at the time, were forced to book another villa at the last minute.
Incredibly, on an internet search for a last minute rental they were offered the actual villa by the real owners and told that they had been the victims of a classic scam that has caught hundreds out over the last few years, as the Olive Press has frequently warned.
“It turned out these scammers had simply stolen the pictures from the internet and set up a fake site,” Lucia explained.
She added that the scammers had slowly gained the couple’s trust by initially saying other properties advertised on the bogus site majorcaleksa.com were no longer available. This made it look that the site was legitimate.
After losing out, Lucia vowed to get even with the conmen and traced the money her husband sent to a branch of La Caixa bank in Granada.
She contacted the bank, but a request for her money to be returned was refused as there were no funds in the account.
Lucia managed to find two other couples who had fallen for the same scam. One of them turned up in Mallorca with their two children to find they had nowhere to stay.
Determined that no-one else should fall victim to the site, she managed to have it closed down after making an official complaint.
She also went to the Guardia Civil, which eventually took on the case, with Lucia twice flying out as a witness to Granada.
“The court paid the expenses, but I think the defendant’s lawyer was surprised to see me. If I hadn’t turned up, that would have been the end of the case,” she said.
During the two year investigation she compiled a huge dossier of information – including details of a bank account in Valencia that was also used by the same scammers.
“The authorities in Spain don’t seem to take this very seriously,” she continued. “But to my mind this is a big crime. How much money has been stolen from innocent people?”
While he claimed he was not guilty and other shadier figures were behind the scam, she believes he should pay for the crime for which he is convicted.
“This puts us off visiting Spain. We have gone to Corsica instead for the past few years. Scams like this are not good for Spain – the authorities should realise this and make it harder for conmen to work online and easier for people to get their money back.”
She added: “After realizing that this was a scam, we contacted immediately the official tourist information website of Mallorc. They already knew about Majorcaleksa, but the website remained active and was still active on the day we found out we had been scammed and phoned them.
“It was no use to us when we were told ‘we already know about Majorcaleksa’. It is not good for Mallorca to be associated with crime like this on a scale like this
These criminals maybe never set foot in Mallorca and can be anywhere as we were told by the tourism office at the airport: “these people are not Spanish” but they managed to open multiple bank accounts all over Spain.
“These criminals maybe never set foot in Mallorca and can be anywhere as we were told by the tourism office at the airport: ‘these people are not Spanish’ but they managed to open multiple bank accounts all over Spain.”
“My point here is how easy it is or was, to open a bank account in Spain with either falsified documents (as the Guardia Civil told me) or in my case, use a ‘Mule man’ with original documents.
She added: “It seems the Spanish wash their hands when it comes to crime they think was committed by non Spanish citizens, even though it happened in Spain, and in my case the person who took my money was Spanish.
A home address given to the court by Uribe in Granada appeared empty this week.
Neighbours told the Olive Press they had not seen him for ‘some time’.
An official address for his ‘holiday lettings business’ turned out to be empty with local businesses saying they had never heard of him.