A woman charged with orchestrating a widespread holiday scam did not attend the latest court hearing after giving birth to a baby in Spain.
Zoe Barrass, 28, faces 12 counts of fraud by false representation, in relation to as many alleged victims.
The baby was born on May 22 and she is breast feeding at the moment, so she has to remain with the child. She can’t travel without the childDavid Caplin, defending
Barrass is listed with Companies’ House as a director of First for Holidays Ltd, which has now been dissolved.
She is accused of accepting money in return for booking holidays, which never materialised.
This was in relation to flights and accommodation bookings to Benidorm, Marbella, Thailand, Tunisia, Paris, Florida, Turkey, Brazil and Majorca.
The charges cover a period from July 2013 to January 2015.
A number of people contacted the Echo at the beginning of last year over the claims.
Barrass, whose address was listed as Marbury Close, Moorside, had first been due to appear at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court in May.
However, a letter from her legal team explained that she had moved to Malaga in Spain, and was too heavily pregnant to fly.
The case was adjourned until earlier this week, when again Barrass did not attend.
Her defence solicitor, David Caplin appearing via video link from Manchester, said: “She is pleading not guilty.”
Mr Caplin said there was a possibility Barrass could arrange a videolink to Spain.
“That is something we are looking into, as something she has to make inquiries around in the locality,” he said.
“This started off at the end of 2014, beginning of 2015. The investigating officer was trying to issue the summons before she had the baby, but there wasn’t sufficient court time.
“The return date for the original summons was as late as April 21, and there is no doubt the defendant wants to proceed.
“The baby was born on May 22 and she is breast feeding at the moment, so she has to remain with the child. She can’t travel without the child.
“She is there with her partner who is in employment in Spain. She is making inquiries about getting a passport to travel with the baby.
“Unfortunately, while the embassy in Spain can issue emergency passports for adults, they cannot do this for an infant. She has to apply for a passport, which can take up to six weeks.”
The case was adjourned until August 22, when it is expected Barrass will appear via videolink from Spain, after which the case will be committed to Newcastle Crown Court.