A FORMER Wigan pub landlord and his wife have been arrested in Spain on suspicion of a £140,000 property scam.
Ex-pats John and Amanda Treagust are being quizzed by agents from the Guardia Civil, over claims they ran a website which collected rental deposits from holidaymakers for properties that were not available.
The family emigrated to Spain several years ago, having previously run the Last Orders pub on Wigan’s Wallgate.
An investigation was launched in February, after the civil guard of Almeria, in south eastern Spain, began receiving fraud complaints about apartments and villas on the Costa Blanca being offered for rent on the internet, via a site called Costa Blanca Live.
They centred around properties in the coastal resorts of Orihuela Costa and Torrevieja.
The alleged victims said they entered into a contract for properties advertised on several internet sites, which included pictures, details, contact forms and a reservation form.
After filling in the forms, the property administration would e-mail asking for a reservation deposit.
A bank account number was provided, and several weeks later the customer would be contacted again to make the money transfer.
But complainants told the police that when they tried to make further contact with the administrator, after paying a deposit, they could no longer get through.
Some embarked on their holidays, only to arrive at the properties they thought they were renting, to discover they were occupied by the real owners.
The Guardia Civil is believed to have spoken to 11 alleged victims from Britain, France, Portugal, Italy and Belgium, each with very similar stories.
It is said the number of people claiming to have been duped may rise to more than 60.
John Anthony Treagust, 41, and Amanda Jane Treagust, 37, were arrested on suspicion of fraud and their small mountain home in Mojácar, Almeria, which has been searched by agents for clues.
Local media say the amount stolen might amount to more than 150.000€.
The Treagusts, who originally hail from Chorley, ran a blog entitled Life on the Costa Blanca, and talked of growing their business from a small project in 2007 to “a busy and bustling company with 5,000 properties managed directly by us, meaning you have peace of mind that, should anything go wrong, or should you have any concerns, we are here to help.”
Amanda Treagust, named as the company’s commercial director, is described on the blog as “never resting until her clients are settled into that perfect property and are enjoying the Spanish lifestyle.”
An online forum about the couple’s business dates back to March 2009, and has 23 pages of comment, containing more than 200 threads.
One comment, on August 20 this year, read: “13 girls put down a deposit for a hen weekend away in a villa in Los Balcones, and were informed two days before that the villa was double-booked..”
Spanish police were unable to comment on the investigation.