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Briton faces eight years in Spanish jail for 'food poisoning scam'

EXCLUSIVE – Glamorous British mother, 43, faces eight years in a hellhole Spanish jail for ‘massive hotel food poisoning scam’, with prosecutors targeting her as ‘the ringleader’

  • Laura Holmes Cameron was charged with fraud and being in a gang this week
  • She was one of eight arrested for ‘encouraging customers to make bogus claims’

A glamorous mother-of-three is facing up to eight years in a hellhole Spanish jail if convicted over a massive holiday food poisoning scam.

Laura Holmes Cameron has been told she can expect one of the stiffer sentences of the group of eight Britons if she is proved to be the ringleader of the alleged racket at trial.

The 43-year-old Essex-born bar owner describes herself on social media as an entrepreneur who now works in travel and trade and ‘turns passions into pay cheques’.

She was charged with fraud and membership of a criminal gang this week after a long-running probe sparked by police arrests in Majorca in September 2017.

Laura Holmes Cameron, Essex-born owner of a notorious Magaluf bar, now faces trial

Well-placed insiders told MailOnline yesterday the type of fraud she is accused of – aggravated fraud – carries a prison sentence of up to six years in Spain and the second charge she is facing a maximum jail sentence of two years.

One said: ‘She’s probably looking at five to eight years if convicted of both crimes.’

The investigating judge who charged Laura, under her maiden surname rather than her married name of Joyce, accused her in a six-page written ruling of ‘leading the profit-motivated organised gang’ with her brother Marc Cameron Grimstead through a Spanish company called Elite Project Marketing SL.

Palma-based Maria Perez Ruiz also accused the pair of hiring accomplices paid on commission to get British tourists on the holiday island to put in false food poisoning claims.

Detectives were said at the time of their arrests to have estimated the losses of the hotel groups whose fraud claims sparked a police crackdown dubbed Operation Claims at around £9.5 million.

MailOnline understands the final figure hoteliers and a state prosecutor will demand as compensation has not yet been finalised.

Pregnant Laura Holmes Cameron is pictured arriving at court in Majorca, September 7, 2017

Fellow accused members of the alleged ring include Susan Lyle (left) and Tegan Sumerlee (right), pictured outside court yesterday

Holmes Cameron was arrested at a luxury villa in upmarket Bendinat near the glamorous Majorcan port of Puerto Portals (pictured)

The investigating judge made it clear in the ruling made public on Wednesday the payouts obtained in the UK from the alleged fraud in 2016 and 2017 ‘notably exceeded’ £176,000.

Prosecutors are expected to be invited to submit their indictments by the end of next month.

Highly-respected Majorca based lawyer Jaime Campaner is representing the island’s hotel federation, which launched its own legal action running separately to the state prosecutor’s as part of the same criminal case.

Laura’s lawyer is experienced Gabriel Llado, who said after his client appeared in court in May 2018 in a closed hearing that she had admitted to passing on the names and phone numbers of holidaymakers for payment but insisted it was part of a pure market research exercise.

He also insisted neither the alleged gang leaders or the so-called ‘claims farmers’ used to gather data of tourists Laura passed on to others in the UK, encouraged the holidaymakers to get chemist’s receipts so they could make fake food poisoning claims as police and hoteliers’ representatives have claimed.

Laura Holmes Cameron (right) and her mother Deborah Cameron, who was previously held in the probe but no further action was taken

Laura Holmes Cameron and husband Stuart Holmes’ bar Heroes in Puerto Portals, was raided by police in 2017

Laura Holmes Cameron (left ) is pictured with her mother Deborah who was investigated but not charged

A source close to the case said: ‘A fraud conviction would result in a fine as well as a prison sentence.

‘Prosecutors will obviously also be seeking compensation for the amount they say has been defrauded.

‘The final figure may not end up being included in indictments but it will be made public at trial.’

The other six Brits charged have been named as Ryan Bridge; Simon Robert Flanagan; Tegan Jewel Sumerlee; Susan Amanda Lyle; Nicola Marie Sanderson; and Peter Carl Murphy.

Bridge, previously referred to as the sole director of UK holiday claims, has been described as ‘one of the people tasked in England with processing the false claims.’

The other five Brits have been described as people paid on commission ‘hired by the two siblings to go to different hotels and get tourists’ personal details including details that would enable the consumption of meals in hotels to be linked to supposed food poisoning.’

The case against four other Brits who had been identified as part of the investigation has been provisionally archived – but only because their whereabouts is unknown and they have not been formally questioned.

Laura Holmes Cameron pictured with her husband Stuart Holmes

The judge said in her ruling that only 38 of the 800 holidaymakers staying at Club Mac Alcudia (pictured) who submitted compensation claims had asked for medical assistance 

Former Magaluf bar owner Laura, who spends most of her time in the UK now although it is thought she has to sign on at a court in Palma every few weeks as part of her conditional release conditions, was arrested at a luxury villa in upmarket Bendinat near the glamorous Majorcan port of Puerto Portals.

After she was held, it emerged her bar Playhouse had been identified as the venue where a British tourist was filmed performing sex acts on 24 men for a cheap drink in the summer of 2014.

The fallout from the infamous video sparked a crackdown on bar crawls in Magaluf after regional governors described the ‘outrageous’ sex scenes as giving the area and women ‘a terrible image’ and promised to ‘stop it whichever way’ they could.

Laura, who was not at her bar when the incident occurred, shut Playhouse down soon after.

The British government announced new measures to clamp down on fake holiday sickness claims as a result of scandals like the Majorca fake food poisoning scam.

Peter Carl Murphy (left) is among the other suspects alleged to have been involved

Eight Britons including Susan Lyle (left) and Peter Murphy (right) have been charged with fraud and membership of a criminal gang this week after a long-running probe

The same year of the Majorca arrests, Benidorm hotel association HOSBEC estimated British guests’ were costing Spanish hotels around £55million in bogus food poisoning claims.

Some reports at the time even claimed Brits were facing a holiday ban in some all-inclusive Costa hotels.

Many fraudsters were caught out after private detectives hired by hotels affected trawled their social media and discovered they had been posting photos of themselves eating and drinking when they later claimed to insurers they had been in bed with diarrhoea.

One family who claimed their holiday was ruined by food poisoning were jailed in February 2021 after Facebook photos revealed them enjoying the waterslide and bar throughout the trip. 

Christopher Byng, 38, Barbara Byng, 64, Linda Lane, 36, and Anthony Byng, 66, submitted false gastric illness claims against Jet2holidays following an all-inclusive trip to the Canary Islands in November 2016.

Christopher, Barbara and Anthony Byng were all jailed for four months. Lane received a suspended sentence. 

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