Well-heeled 47-year-old David Johnstone posing as a hedge fund manager conned two hotels for six months before getting caught.
During check-in he schmoozed and said that he worked for a Swiss bank, and convinced the hotels to use an override function to enable his stay.
Past guests of the Presidential Suite at the Park Regis include Steven Spielberg who stayed there when he was filming in the city.
The 1,625 square foot Presidential Suite comes with a super king size bed, separate living room, dining room, dressing room, and kitchen. The hotel boasts that the Presidential Suite is the largest in all of Birmingham, and the room also includes access to the Executive Lounge.
Over the next six months Mr. Johnstone utilized the gym, spa, restaurants, and even tipped the staff quite well – charging everything to his room. A model guest, the staff had no idea that they were being taken.
After running up a bill to the tune of £124,000 (over 155,000 USD), he was finally caught when Barclaycard alerted the hotel mid-December.
During the investigation, a manager at the hotel recalled seeing an email Mr. Johnstone sent to someone claiming he was in Jordan while he was actually in the hotel.
It was determined that he had no fixed address, and that he had previously run the same racket undiscovered at The AC Hotel.
Police arrested the crook and his room was searched. The credit card was recovered that had been used, and it was verified that the card had indeed been cancelled back in July after the shady thief had accumulated 90K in debt.
During questioning, Mr. Johnstone was found to have previously been employed at a manager level and things had somehow gone sour but he insisted he was still owed £200,000. He also had a previous conviction in the United States related to hedge fund fraud for $176,000, had supposedly come to the UK to visit his ailing father and found himself without a place to stay. That’s where the AC Hotel and Park Regis came in.
Although his defense in court said Mr. Johnstone intended to repay everyone, the court found him manipulative and dishonest.
It was suggested that the hotel staff felt humiliated, that the deception would have a big impact on the hotel since it was unlikely all the money would be recovered, and that it was even possible that some workers would lose their jobs.
Mr. Johnstone he has been jailed for three years and nine months on two charges of fraud.
The AC Hotel The Park Regis Birmingham is owned by StayWell Hospitality Group. It is their first property in the UK, which opened in early 2016. StayWell has just 31 properties worldwide.
The sad part for me when reading this story was knowing that he had tipped people in the hotels using the cancelled credit card. I don’t know the logistics involved but they might not get the money owed to them.
The wonderful staff members who undoubtedly went out of their way to give their guest a great stay ended up holding the short end of the stick. Some hotel workers rely heavily on tips and because the fraudster was a big tipper, they must have been crushed to learn of the con.