Bake A Cake wedding fraudster jailed for three years

Media caption,
Wedding company boss who scammed brides is jailed

A wedding company boss who conned brides-to-be out of thousands of pounds has been jailed for three years.

Bake A Cake Catering, in Halesowen, ceased trading in August 2015, failing to deliver wedding services that people had paid for.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard there were 700 victims, with some forced to cancel their weddings.

Lisa Holt, 41, was described by the judge as "irresponsible, cruel and deceitful" as she was jailed.

Her husband Ryan Holt, 42, received nine months for laundering the proceeds.

Sentencing Lisa Holt, Judge Barry Berlin, said she was "callous".

He added: "You had hardened yourself against human anxiety."

Dudley Council said it received 150 complaints about the firm, and trading standards investigators said some brides had to cancel their weddings.

While the majority of customers had booked weddings, others were using the company for birthdays and there was also a funeral.

At a previous hearing, the court also heard how Holt defrauded online company Wowcher after she claimed she owned 16 photo booths and employed 10 staff, the council said.

The authority said this left Wowcher to refund customers for services that had not been delivered to the value of £46,000.

The fraud totalled £104,000, the court was told, with £46,000 defrauded from Wowcher and the remainder directly from customers.

"I don't know how she could do it"

Media caption,
Brides fell victim to 'cruel' fraudster jailed for wedding con

Jemma Cooper, from Dudley, paid £250 for a photo booth, chocolate fountain, two buffets and table decorations at a reduced price due to Black Friday deals.

"She didn't look like the sort of person that was going to rip you off," she said.

She realised something was wrong after seeing Facebook comments.

"You start to worry," she said. "I did get in touch with her and she said 'it's a hate campaign against me, everything's going to be fine, I'll be at your wedding'.

"And then she started doing it to me - not getting back in touch with me."

With just a week before her wedding, Jemma relied on help from family and friends to ensure her big day went ahead.

"I just wanted to cry, it was a nightmare," she said.

"Some women had to cancel. I was luckier, I managed to get stuff together to do it.

"I don't know how she could do it and live with herself afterwards."

Holt, of Albert Road, Halesowen, had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud.

Ryan Holt had admitted one count of money laundering after using his bank accounts to receive payments.

The court heard that the couple have no assets, however Lisa Holt has repaid £14,000 to customers. She apologised to her victims through a letter to the court.

The court was told some customers are being repaid by as little as £1 a month. At this rate, one bride would be fully reimbursed in 125 years' time, the court heard.

Image caption,
Lisa Holt arriving at Wolverhampton Crown Court

In a statement Wowcher said: "As soon as we became aware of the issues that our customers were experiencing with Bake-a-Cake, where possible, we sought to find replacement suppliers so that our customers could redeem their vouchers for similar services to ensure that they were not disappointed.

"Where this was not possible, we provided our customers with a full refund for their vouchers.

"Wowcher had paid Bake-a-Cake £45,996.30 for vouchers that were redeemed with Bake-a-Cake but which were not honoured by Bake-a-Cake."

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