'Dine and dash' fraudster skipped bills at 18 eateries to impress partner
- Credit: Archant
A 'selfish' diner has been jailed for eight months after walking away from a string of venues without paying for almost £2,500 worth of meals and hospitality.
Alan Rogers had already admitted responsibility for 18 offences before returning to Ipswich Crown Court to be sentenced on Friday.
The 46-year-old ex-aerospace engineer, formerly of Market Place, Hadleigh, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation at the same court in July.
Rogers and his partner were the first post-lockdown guests to stay at the Sugar Beat Eating House, in Swainsthorpe, near Norwich, but left without paying a balance of £824.95 for 10 nights' accommodation between July 10 and 20.
They then left the Lighthouse restaurant, in Aldeburgh, without paying a £136 bill on September 5, before walking out of the Marquis of Cornwallis, in Layham, near Hadleigh, without paying £97.80 on September 10.
Rogers also asked the court to take into consideration a further 15 offences:
•Worth £90 from The Black Lion, Long Melford, on January 17;
•£60 from The Cock Horse Inn, Lavenham, in February,
•£96.95 from the Brudenell Hotel, Aldeburgh, on February 7,
•£125 from Steak Lobster & Co, Felixstowe on February 28,
•£30 from The Victory Inn, Wickham St Paul, near Sudbury, on July 7,
•£97.20 from the Bird in Hand, Wreningham, near Norwich, on July 19,
•£108.80 from Hintlesham Hall, near Ipswich, on August 9,
•£55 from Cobblers Café & Wine Bar, Hadleigh, on August 9,
•£146.55 from the The Barn Brasserie, Great Tey, near Colchester, on August 23,
•£95 from The Waterfront Bar Bistro, Ipswich, on September 2,
•£107.16 from the Salthouse Harbour Hotel, Ipswich, on September 10,
•£36 from The Brook Inn, Washbrook, near Ipswich, on September 20,
•£79 from The Beagle, in Sproughton, near Ipswich, on September 23,
•£85 from The Six Bells, Preston St Mary, near Lavenham, on October 27,
•£54.65 from The Swan Inn, Monks Eleigh, near Lavenham, on October 28
Rogers was arrested, along with a 43-year-old woman from Sudbury, on suspicion of making off without payment in Ipswich on November 18.
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No further action was taken against the woman, while Rogers chose to work with Suffolk Constabulary's Operation Converter team and accept responsibility for the entire spate of offences.
He would offer payment using a declined bank card, before making a dishonest excuse about a pending redundancy package, and leaving without making any subsequent attempt to pay.
Prosecutor Richard Potts said that Rogers had repaid just £100, only when confronted in the street by a member of staff from one of the venues.
Nicola May, mitigating, said Rogers had made full admissions and expressed regret following his arrest.
She said the father-of-two had started with the intention of paying, before realising he was able to commit further offences.
Miss May said the offences were partly motivated by escapism and a desire for Rogers to impress his partner.
She said Rogers had been using alcohol to self-medicate a decline in mental health – having previously being diagnosed with bipolar disorder – after voluntarily quitting work to look after his ailing father.
Judge Emma Peters said Rogers had not committed the offences out of desperation to survive, but had instead visited high-end establishments, ordering expensive menu items.
She said the trembling man in the dock cut a very different figure from the man who, for nine months, "lived the high life", regularly wining and dining.
"It's fair to say that, while other people were eating out to help out, you were eating out to help yourself," she added.
"These businesses were desperate. Their very survival was on the line – and you took advantage."
Following the hearing, Duncan Etchells, of the Operation Converter team, said: “The selfish actions of Rogers and his so called ‘dine and dash’ offending would have caused considerable distress and frustration to the proprietors of all the pubs, restaurants and other eateries he visited.
“These were businesses which, at the time, were no doubt struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the Covid pandemic, with the lockdown affecting the food and drink trade, so to see Rogers receive this sentence is very satisfying.”
Operation Converter is aimed at encouraging offenders to clear the slate, and give victims some peace of mind, by admitting other crimes and avoiding the possibility of arrest at the prison gates following their release.