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Champagne-loving junior hotel manager jailed for role in £100,000 credit card fraud

13 May 2010
Champagne-loving junior hotel manager jailed for role in £100,000 credit card fraud

A junior hotel manager who ran up a £14,000 bar bill at an exclusive Mayfair club after stealing guests' credit card details has been jailed for 18 months.

Private-school educated Saad Lakhdar-Ghazal, 23, began working at the luxury Durley House Hotel, Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, on 1 July last year and copied multiple credit card numbers until he left on 28 October 2009.

He was jailed on Thursday 6 May after a spending spree that left American Express £100,000 out of pocket.

"You were sucked into this world of greed to have fun," Southwark Crown Court judge John Price told the defendant. "Well, the party's over.

"You got a job at a leading hotel and worked in management and got your hands on information relating to people's credit cards and fell in with a dishonest high-living group of people and you gave them information.

"It all went on high-living, girls, drinking, clubs and you spent large sums. Nothing was obtained but a good time and it has all gone."

Lakhdar-Ghazal pleaded guilty to falsely claiming he was entitled to use an American Express number to pay a £5,522.50 bill for 13 bottles of Champagne at the British Luxury Club, New Bond Street.

He also pleaded guilty to using another Amex number to pay bills of £2,660 and £6,000 at the same club at a later date.

Lakhdar-Ghazal admitted possessing a counterfeit American Express card, details of 17 bank accounts on bits of paper and details of another 54 on his mobile phone, in connection with fraud on 13 December.

He also admitted fraud at Durley House Hotel, namely obtaining bank details and falsely representing to Eurostar he was entitled to use a card to pay a £572 fare.

A search of the Bayswater hotel room he was staying in revealed Amex card numbers which had run up charges of another £85,000, plus attempts totalling £26,000.

Lakhdar-Ghazal insisted his spending totalled only £15,000, but accepted associates used numbers he supplied to spend £85,000 at other top private members' clubs, luxury retailer Louis Vuitton, Noura Brasserie and Piccadilly's Moroccan Momo restaurant.

He attended a hotel management course in Marbella, Spain, and the Durley House management internship was his first job in the UK.

Prosecutor Stephen Winberg told the court Lakhdar-Ghazal convinced the British Luxury Club his father was phoning him card details to pay the huge bar bill, but on all three occasions he was using victims' details.

His collection of bankcard details included numbers, expiry dates and the three-digit CCV security code.

"He began to associate with gentlemen who were indulging in a lavish lifestyle and saw an opportunity that led him down a road resulting in disappointment for him and his family," said Rachel Ramez, defending.

"He noted down numbers and his benefit was several very expensive nights out. The cards were used much wider by other people, but he admitted he started the ball rolling.

"He is embarrassed and ashamed he went after a lifestyle of this sort at such cost," added Ramez. "All he wants to do is return home with his family."

DI Richard Fisher, head of the cheque and credit card unit at City of London Police said: "Today's sentencing is the result of hard work by our officers and again sends out a clear message that criminals will not be allowed to get away with credit card fraud."


HOSPITALITY'S MOST NOTORIOUS FRAUDS

1. A conman convinced entrepreneurs to back him after he claimed to be a Michelin-trained chef with links to Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay. He had actually learnt to cook in prison. Kenneth Goldsmith was jailed for three-and-a-half years after he blew £120,000 on holidays and cars. (November 2009) 2. After impressing the owner of Graythwaite Manor in Grange-over-Sands, South Cumbria, chef Anthony De Clerck was promoted to general manager. But Jane Duncan called in police after £20,000 in cash disappeared and more than £20,000-worth of bills had been racked up on hotel debit cards. De Clerck turned out to be a conman who had used at least five different identities. (October 2009)

3.Nigel Parkin, a former general manager at the Michelin-starred Samling hotel on Lake Windermere, was sentenced to eight months in jail for fraud after he left in 2007 and set up a rival hotel, the Mortal Man near Troutbeck, Cumbria. The new business hit trouble and he started making unauthorised deductions from customer's credit cards in order to pay off mounting debts. The Mortal Man is now under new ownership. (January 2010)

4. Financial controller Paul Thompson defrauded Hopkinson Catering out of £41,000 in 2005/06 to pay off his partners' debts, even though it was suffering financial difficulties. The fraud came to light after the company went into administration. (November 2009)

5.Janet Davis, a paymaster at the Caledonian Hilton hotel admitted embezzling more than £100,000 by an accounts department. Davis created 10 fake staff positions at the Hilton group hotel and then paid their wages into her account. (March 2007)

By Caterer Staff

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