A HOTEL booking agent made more than £300,000 in commission from a major hotel chain by booking 'pretend' guests, a court has heard.
Alan Ennis, of Bailey Avenue, Ellesmere Port, is on trial accused of 70 counts of obtaining money transfers by deception and false accounting.
He denies all the charges. A jury at Reading Crown Court heard Ennis sent dozens of invoices to the Thistle Hotel Group claiming for guests that had never set foot inside their hotels.
When his first bill of £1,400 went unchallenged, the court was told, Ennis allegedly started sending in larger commissions claims.
The jury heard that, by using false guest names and dates, the 41-year-old billed the company for £20,000 in 2001.
Prosecutor Nigel Daly claimed that Ennis' 'fraudulent spree' was only discovered by Thistle's finance department during spot checks which revealed that none of the names on his invoices had made hotel reservations.
He claimed the invoices began with lists of about 20 names, including some naming guests who had stayed at the hotel many months or years earlier.
Mr Daly added: 'By the later stages, Ennis was invoicing for over 80 guests.
'It was simply greed and he was getting away with it so he continued to invoice.
'This was going on, not for two or three months, but for years and Thistle continued to pay.'
The jury heard how Ennis' hotel booking company, Travelogue, based in Newbury, Berkshire, lost its major client, Royal Mail, in 1997.
Mr Daly said: 'Travelogue became too reliant on the Royal Mail and the commission coming in.
'When the Post Office decided to source their accommodation elsewhere, Travelogue could not replace their business and the effect on Travelogue's income would have been devastating.
'Travelogue eventually went into receivership but not before Ennis began to use his knowledge of Thistle and the hotel industry to start sending fictitious invoices.'
In police interviews, Ennis said he was simply carrying out booking orders that a finance company had asked him to do.