HOTEL staff brought down a professional fraudster on a country-wide con totalling thousands of pounds.
Heavily-pregnant Helen Ogden, 29, claimed she was a businesswoman - but was giving false names and making up credit card numbers as she moved around the UK accumulating bills totalling £4,853.
But deceitful conwoman was rumbled when a housekeeper at the Staincliffe Hotel, in Seaton Carew, found four keys for other hotels in her room, sparking suspicions and starting a run-of-events which would bring Ogden’s dream world crashing down around her.
Ogden whose web of lies included claiming she was an aircraft engineer and that she was an Afghan War widow whose soldier hubby was shot dead by the Taliban, was jailed for 16 months after she pleaded guilty to 25 charges of fraud by false representation and theft at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.
But Angela Jukes, the manager at the Staincliffe, who helped to bring Ogden’s dream-world to an abrupt end, said Ogden could not have been “any less suspicious” when she checked-in to the seafront hotel.
Unbeknown to staff she arrived with 40 convictions for dishonesty offences in 2011 and last year and was jailed for eight months in Scotland last August.
Angela explained how Ogden seemed relaxed as she chatted to staff about her pregnancy and would appear to be doing work in the hotel’s restaurant during the day.
It was only when one of the hotel’s housekeepers was cleaning Ogden’s room and discovered four keys from other hotels that slight suspicion start to creep in.
Angela and the hotel’s receptionist Nicky Liddle set about ringing round the hotels to let them know they had found their keys and it soon became apparent that they had a professional trickster on their hands who had no intentions of paying for her stay at the Staincliffe.
“If the keys weren’t found in the hotel room then she might have still been at it now,” said Angela, 46, who lives in Bakers Mead, in Hartlepool and immediately alerted police.
“She was giving us exactly the same stories that she had been at the other hotels.
“She was telling me that she was married and she had a wedding ring on, she was even telling me about her two dogs.
“She told us that she had lost her bag and her purse, she was that convincing that staff at the others hotels had actually gave her £100, £50, and £30 until she got her cards and purse back.
“I am quite switched on but I had no reason to believe that it was all lies.”
Ogden had been travelling Britain by rail without a ticket or smooth-talked bus drivers into letting her ride for free because she had no money.
“It’s actually sad to think that a heavily pregnant woman has nowhere to go and goes about doing that but at the same time she was going about ripping all of these hotels off,” added mum-of-one Angela.
Rebecca Brown, mitigating, said Ogden, who has no fixed address, fell into a spiral of offending when she ended up in a bed and breakfast with not enough benefits to fund it after she was made redundant and split with her family and her partner in Manchester.
Judge Howard Crowson told Ogden, who was sentenced over a TV link to Low Newton Prison at her request: “There are substantial aggravating features in your case.
“Your record demonstrates you are persistently dishonest. These frauds are characterised by deceit and planning and manipulation.”