Take a look at the vacation photo Jade Muzoka posted on her Facebook page.
There she is with then-boyfriend Leon Roberts, poolside, eating a fine meal and drinking at the luxury Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort and Spa, in Turkey, in July 2015.
Mmmm, maki roll… wasabi… soy sauce… dumplings… pepper sauce… My, what a scrumptious meal. Odd thing, though: the couple is smiling, definitely not clutching their stomachs, even though they claimed in April 2016 that they’d had food poisoning during their stay and were bedridden with vomiting and diarrhea.
Muzoka, 27, and Roberts, 37, both bodybuilders, had, in fact, faked food poisoning in order to get a pay out from the holiday company. On Monday, after having pleaded guilty to fraud at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court in the UK, they were slapped with a six-month sentence that was suspended for 12 months, ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid community work, and handed a bill for £1,115 to cover court costs and a victim surcharge.
How did they get found out? It was those happy, shiny photos they posted to Facebook that popped their bubble. Not only was there that shot of them lounging and dining by the pool: they also posted boozy selfies and photos from day trips.
They had sued the travel firm Tui, but Tui wasn’t having any of it. Not only did investigators find the couple seemingly looking quite chipper in their Facebook photos, they also described to the court how a solicitor, a doctor and a claims management company had helped to prepare the “blatantly false” food-poisoning claim.
Illness faking is a big hit among British conmen and -women. As The Guardian reports, British holidaymakers lead the world when it comes to fake illness claims – the “gastroenteritis wars” are being waged across the Mediterranean – and travel companies are fighting back.
District judge Jonathan Taaffe had warned Roberts and Muzoka that they could be imprisoned as a deterrent to a “tsunami” of claims.
It would fly in the face of common sense for me to ignore the fact that a holiday company feel it necessary, because of a tsunami of claims, to bring a private prosecution.
The couple had withdrawn the claim before they received payout, but Tui chose to prosecute them anyway.
Be forewarned, fake sickies: the industry is fighting back, the courts are looking to make examples of you, and investigators and prosecutors are plenty smart enough to snoop around in your social media posts to see if your tales of retching pan out.