Charmer’s trail of hotel cons revealed
6:00pm Thursday 17th October 2013 in Latest News
TWO other hotels say they fell victim to elderly conman Michael Sweeting after the Gazette reported how he racked up a £10k bill at a B&B.
It has now emerged the 73-year-old charmer may have spent much of the past two years freeloading off a series of hotels.
At the family run New Road Guest House in Chippenham, he took up one of their ten bedrooms for almost a year without paying. The owner said he told tales of his days in the Merchant Navy and chatted to guests in Chinese, French and Spanish.
Mr Sweeting, now staying with a friend in Lower Weston, Bath, admitted fraud when he appeared at Swindon Crown Court.
He was given a four-month jail term suspended for two years and ordered to pay his £10,780 bill at a rate of £200 a month.
What the New Road business did not know was that when Sweeting arrived early last year, he had just been thrown out of the Kings Arms in Malmesbury where it says he racked up £3,000 worth of accommodation, food and drinks in a two-month stay until January 2012.
Jon Pennycott, then the owner, now managing director of Eco Signs Swindon Ltd, said: “My commercial director Ian Robertson had to evict him. The amount of cheques from him we had bounced on us and he never paid any money back to us.
“We should have kept him on as a bottle washer – he could have worked off his debt.”
He said they too fell for his charm. “It’s true he is a very, very charming man, and well-spoken, but we soon found out he is, in fact, simply a conman.
“He’d spent his life in that pub and told us all stories about its history. It is a shame but unfortunately he has taken people for a lot of money. I would love to stop him doing this to any other bar or restaurant in Wiltshire.”
John Peaple, who ran the hotel for Mr Pennycott and now works for Arkell’s Brewery, said: “He was a regular customer at the bar, so I didn’t think he’d be a problem. He was in the South Cotswolds Rotary Club.”
It is not known where Mr Sweeting went after New Road in February. But he checked into the Lansdowne Hotel in Calne, in April and treated himself to a free £55 to £60 room for six months. It is owned by Arkell’s Brewery of Swindon, which now also owns the Kings Arms.
Director George Arkell said Arkells is taking legal action to recover thousands of pounds. He said: “The depth of the issue was brought to our attention by the story in the Gazette.”
He said accommodation providers should share information about crooks, like Pubwatch or Shopwatch. “By people behaving in this way it can do an awful lot of damage to cash flow, especially for the small hotels.”