Travel agent fraudster who phoned police with threats is caught at Gatwick Airport trying to flee country

Jailed: Jonathan Richman: Met Police
Jailed: Jonathan Richman: Met Police

A serial fraudster who was caught trying to flee the country after phoning an investigating police officer to threaten him and his family has been jailed.

Jonathan Richman, 52, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to a total of two years in prison at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday after fleecing travel companies and holidaymakers for years.

He pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering offences totalling more than £80,000.

Between 2011 and 2015, Richman posed as a travel agent under the name Jamie Malcolm dealing in last-minute holidays at low prices.

But without his clients' knowledge, Richman paid for the holidays using fraudulent credit card details, as they paid money into bank accounts he controlled.

Police discovered bank cards for money laundering accounts and a passport.
Police discovered bank cards for money laundering accounts and a passport.

Travel companies were left thousands of pounds out of pocket when credit card companies later spotted the fraudulent payments and recovered the money.

And in some cases, where the fraud was spotted quickly, Richman's customers had their holidays cancelled, and were left unable to get their money back from him.

The Met launched an investigation in September 2013 when two people returning from a holiday in Thailand were arrested by officers at Heathrow Airport.

It quickly became apparent they were victims of Richman's fraud, police said.

A breakthrough in finding out Richman’s true identity or whereabouts came in October 2014 when Richman called the Heathrow CID office and made threats against one of the investigating officers and his family, telling him to “leave [him] alone”.

Detectives traced the mobile phone numbers used to make the calls, and were then able to link the numbers to Richman. He was arrested in February 2015 in Brighton.

In total, officers identified around 16 victims - including companies or people - who had fallen foul of Richman's scams.

Richman caught on CCTV buying a phone top-up card.
Richman caught on CCTV buying a phone top-up card.

He was convicted of fraud and malicious communications offences in March 2015 and sentenced to a total of four years' in prison.

After Richman was released on licence from prison in August 2016, he breached his licence and was on the run from police. He was eventually arrested at Gatwick Airport on August 28, trying to board a flight to Morocco.

He was charged on August 29 with the additional offences, and pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court on September 27 to three counts of fraud, money laundering and the possession of fraudulent documents and articles for use in fraud.

Detective Sergeant Dave Bullamore, from the Met's Aviation Policing Command, said: "Richman was carrying out these frauds effectively as a full time occupation.

"He went to great lengths to try and conceal his true identity, right from renting a flat under a false name to setting up fake bank accounts.

"But his arrogance proved to be his downfall when he called the detectives to threaten and warn them off from investigating him.

"We were finally able to match his face to his true identity and arrest him, and despite his attempts to go on the run and evade justice, he is now facing further time behind bars."