LILY Higgins had bought her dream home in southern Spain and applied for the necessary TIE card to allow her to retire here.
The 72-year-old former hospital administrator had sold her home in London and started a new life on Orihuela Costa, setting up a new home and network of trusted friends.
That was until she unwittingly found herself dragged into a fake padron scandal that ended in her arrest, with a criminal record now looming over her head.
Worse than that, with her TIE card not arriving in time, she has been forced to go back to the UK to live on a friend’s sofa.
She flew back last week after being told she had ‘outstayed her welcome’ by the British Consulate’s Immigration Department.
“I was simply too terrified to stay and face a knock at the door one night to get hauled off to the cells again,” the grandmother-of-six told the Olive Press this week.
Higgins, who had lived in Orijuela for nearly four years, is one of up to 40 other British victims caught up in the same situation, the Olive Press understands.
The group have been forced into a legal limbo until the pending court case takes place in Torrevieja.
Since the alleged scam was first exposed by this paper in May, the admin company involved, One Way Services, of Quesada, has continually denied the situation.
Now, incredibly, its owner Matt Smith has been made a mayor of a local village and come out fighting, claiming the Olive Press has a vendetta against him.
Accusing us of ‘scaremongering’ he described us as a ‘costa tabloid’ and threatened that we would be folding soon.
His social media attack has backfired badly, though, leaving the victims furious about his claims and demanding he lose his new position.
“It’s incredible,” said Higgins. “How dare he attack you after ruining my life?
“I’m worried sick about future travel and my legal status since he altered our padron certificates. They were not his to alter!”
Her friend Jay Elliott, 66, who is in a similar situation, is also angry that Smith sent a sinister message to a friend saying ‘tell Jay and Lily thanks very much for speaking to the press’.
Mother-of-three Elliot, who is attempting to stay in Spain until the court case, has not been able to reapply for her TIE card via other gestors because of her possible criminal record.
Both Lily and Jay had been arrested and detained at Alicante Police Station, for their perceived part in the alleged fraud.
Now the pair are planning to join up with dozens of others to plan a joint legal action against Smith and One Way Services.
Smith, who was made the ‘Pedania mayor’ of Entre Naranjos last month – an appointment by Orihuela Town Hall that requires no election – told the Olive Press that there was no planned court case against him.
He insisted his clients had been dealt with ‘in a satisfactory way’ and continued: “The police did not bring charges against them, nor do they have a criminal record relating to your allegations.
“If you are aware of anyone else that is having problems obtaining their residencia please ask them to get in touch with us, and we will happily help them.”
If you have also been affected, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
– NO VENDETTA: Just fair reporting of British gestor linked to fake padron probe as he takes on mayor role
– EXCLUSIVE: British expats caught up in faked residency probe on Spain’s Costa Blanca face two-years in legal limbo
– EXCLUSIVE: Gestor involved in padron fraud facing eviction for 12 months non-payment of rent