Pregnant British Expat Suspected Ringleader Of Holiday Sickness Scam
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
A British expat who made a fortune organizing an infamous bar crawl in Magaluf and now owns a nightclub there, was detained by Spanish police on suspicion of masterminding a holiday food poisoning scam.
A heavily pregnant Laura Joyce, 37, was arrested on Majorca this week.
She is suspected of being the ringleader of a scam that used touts at hotels to entice British tourists into faking symptoms of gastric illness to get compensation, legal sources claimed in local media reports.
Five other people are also said to have been detained. Joyce’s mother was arrested as well, but has since been cleared of suspicion, reports say.
Joyce’s passport was confiscated before the mother-of-two, who is due to give birth next month, was released from custody pending further inquiries.
Their arrest comes amid a clampdown by authorities on sickness scams on the holiday island, which is visited by more than 2.5 million British tourists a year.
Cehat, the Spanish hotel and apartment trade body, estimates that Britons have cost them $146 million in food poisoning claims over the past three years. The scam Joyce is suspected of running is said to have raked in up to $16 million.
Hotels hired private detectives to build up dossiers of allegedly fake scams.
Hundreds of claims were investigated by authorities in Majorca after police were handed a dossier by lawyers acting for the Mac Hotels group, suggesting that its losses alone could be as high as $6 million, based upon 273 suspect claims from nearly 800 vacationers.
UK travel agent body ABTA has warned that the fraudulent sickness claims have become such an issue that it threatened to make British tourists unwelcome in Spain.