A former general manager at the Michelin-starred Samling hotel on Lake Windermere has been jailed for fraud.
Nigel Parkin, 37, from Windemere, had admitted a series of fraud and theft offences when he appeared before Carlisle Crown Court in early December.
Now at a sentencing hearing yesterday (21 January), also before Carlisle Crown Court, he was sent to prison for eight months.
The court heard that the Samling had won a Michelin star while Parkin was general manager, but that he felt his bosses had accepted the credit without recognising his contribution.
So Parkin left the Samling in 2007 to set up a rival hotel, the Mortal Man near Troutbeck, Cumbria. But the business failed to attract enough trade and ran into financial difficulties.
Evidence was given that Parkin then began to make unauthorised deductions from customer's credit cards in order to pay off mounting debts. In total during 2008/2009 more than 30 deductions were made, totalling more than £6,500.
Nicholas Courtney, prosecuting, said that when customers became aware they had been overcharged, the hotel was besieged with phone calls.
The court heard that eventually an employee went to the police because of concerns over Parkin's dismissal of the claims.
Police have indicated that there maybe other customers who were also defrauded but who have yet to come forward.
Parkin's barrister Max Saffan said in mitigation that Parkin had acted out of desperation rather than criminal intent.
"His problem was that he was more of a hotelier than a businessman.
"He was an accomplished leisure industry man, but with this he was out of his depth.
"Quite clearly this was not a going concern. It was a hotel that was sinking.
"As a result of all this the good name he had built up over 20 years in the hotel industry has been ruined, and there is a real possibility that he will never work in hotels again."
The Mortal Man is now a successful concern under new ownership.
By James Stagg
E-mail your comments to James Stagg here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next hotel job here with Caterersearch.com jobs