British couple cancelled hundreds of bookings for ‘phantom’ luxury Marbella villas and kept hundreds of thousands of pounds after claiming their firm had gone bust
According to a report in the UK’s Daily Mail Newspaper dated 13th June, a couple allegedly defrauded British holidaymakers of hundreds of thousands of pounds after advertising ‘phantom’ luxury Marbella villas on rental website Owners Direct.
Spanish police are investigating the British husband and wife Mark and Michelle Stafford, who live in the Costa del Sol, after they were accused of scamming hen and stag parties and families by taking payments for fake properties.
The Staffords allegedly targeted large groups by offering luxury Marbella villas with infinity pools, private chefs and hot tubs. But just before the groups were due to arrive, the couple contacted them saying their company had ceased trading and there was no accommodation for them.
In fact, the company – Rainbow Villas Realty – has never even been registered in Spain, yet the Staffords were able to post listings on Owners Direct and take payments.
Email they sent to clients
We are really sorry but there is no easy way for us to break this news to you ….
Due to unforseen circumstances the company Rainbow Villas has ceased trading with immediate effect and your holiday accommodation in Marbella is cancelled. There is no accommodation in Marbella for your group and no alternative accommodation available through Rainbow Villas.
Please do not travel to Marbella expecting to have accommodation provided as there is none available through Rainbow Villas. May we advise you claim for reimbursement through your travel insurance company.’
The Daily Mail report added that they allegedly advertised properties which they didn’t own over the summer – sometimes double, triple and quadruple-booking them – before sending the last-minute cancellations.
Many were genuine villas owned by people who had never even met the couple, who gave the properties fake names and used photos from real estate agencies to advertise them. Others were villas the couple had rented from owners who had allegedly ended their agreements with them because of unpaid household bills and rent.
Some groups said Michelle Stafford, 56, a former auctioneer, told them that her husband Mark, 50, a former nightclub bouncer, was dying of cancer. But former friends of the couple say this is not true.
It is not clear how many holidaymakers have been affected by the alleged scam and over what period, but the couple are thought to have made hundreds of thousands of pounds. A Facebook page called ‘Rainbow Villa Scam’ last night had 525 members, the majority of whom paid about £5,000 per group for the alleged fake bookings.
Read the full article here.
Please see our advise concerning the safe booking of villas on-line.