TRAVEL agent Neelam Desai has been jailed for 30 months for a series of frauds totalling more than £230,000. The 34-year-old ran a business selling discount flights and holidays from her home in Beulah Grove, Selhurst, in late 2009 and early 2010. But the deals - described in court as "too good to be true" - were so unrealistically cheap that her business quickly fell apart. Wealthy customers loaned her large sums of money to pay back other holidaymakers who had booked flights and trips that never happened. When the customers asked for their loans back, Desai tried to repay them by writing cheques from her mother's bank account - without permission - totalling £220,000. The cheques later bounced and the businessmen contacted the police. Desai, a former baggage handler at Gatwick Airport, later wrote three cheques from a stolen chequebook to repay other angry customers. These cheques also bounced. Her scams also extended to selling three iPhones via online marketplaces despite never owning any of the goods. All the while, Desai had been doing business under a fake name after being made bankrupt in 2009. Today her lies finally caught up with her when she appeared at Croydon Crown Court to be sentenced. Desai originally denied four counts of fraud, three of handling stolen goods and one of doing business while bankrupt, but changed her plea on the first day of her trial on March 3. The court heard today that Desai committed frauds while on a nine month suspended sentence, imposed in February 2010, for obtaining loans in 2006 which were secured against her mother's address, again without permission. Judge Stephen Waller sentenced Desai to a total of 30 months, three of which were for offending while on a suspended sentence. Judge Waller told the former John Ruskin College pupil she would spend half her sentence in custody before being released on licence. Seven other counts of fraud, six relating to cheques and one to an iPhone, are to remain on file. An investigation by the Advertiser has linked the former travel agent to a dating website scam where men were tricked out of tens of thousands of pounds. Desai was arrested last month on suspicion of ten counts of fraud by false representation and was bailed until August pending further investigation. The conwoman made allegations of harassment against Advertiser chief reporter Gareth Davies which led police officers to threaten him with arrest. The warning has yet to be rescinded.
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