A CONMAN who committed a string of "dine and dash" crimes at posh pubs and restaurants across East Anglia sobbed has he was jailed today.
Alan Rogers, 46, slipped out of 18 establishments without footing the bill last summer in a bid to impress his blonde girlfriend.
He wept as he was jailed for eight months at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday after admitting three charges of fraud and asked for 15 similar offences to be taken into consideration.
The 46-year old was originally arrested with a 43-year-old woman, but she was later released without charge and told she faced no further action.
The well-presented pair would become friendly with staff, dine out on the most expensive items on the menu and guzzle fine wines before making a sharp exit – and leaving the three-figure bills unpaid.
The father-of-two even racked up a large bill at bed and breakfast's before disappearing during his nine-month reign of terror across the struggling hospitality industry.
Rogers offered payment on genuine bank cards throughout his expensive escapades and promised to return later to settle the bill when they declined – but never came back.
Some of the region's best-known restaurants fell victim to the smooth-talking former aerospace engineer, seeing Judge Emma Peters dub him an "expert at this fraud".
"Sometimes when people are short of money, they commit offences through sheer desperation in order to survive. This is not the case here," she said.
"When others were eating out to help out, you were eating out to help yourself. You had no intention of paying."
During a 10-night stay at the Sugar Beat restaurant in Swainsthorpe, Norfolk, Rogers racked up an £824 bill before doing a runner.
The greedy gastro-criminal chowed down on £200 worth of food and drinks at the Marquis in Layham near Hadleigh, before shamefully stumping up £100 after running into staff members in the street at a later date.
The court heard that the third charge was in relation to the non-payment of a £136 meal at The Lighthouse in Aldeburgh.
At the Bird In Hand pub in Wreningham, Norfolk, Rogers and his female companion supped five Peroni beers, four Pimms and lemonades during an outing for Sunday lunch – which came up to £97.20.
WINING AND DINING
The 46-year-old also tucked into sausage and mash, butternut squash and carrot soup at The Swan in Monks Eleigh, along with two double vodkas, two pints of Guinness and a bottle of Shiraz red wine to take away.
Julie Penney who runs the pub with her husband Steve, said of his sentencing: "That's excellent news – last year was a very difficult time for the trade so anyone effectively stealing from us deserves locking up.
"Trying to keep open was a struggle for many country pubs and restaurants so the last thing we needed was a crook cheating us.
"He was very friendly and plausible and fooled a lot of people but we were angry when we discovered that he was a crook."
Prosecutor Richard Potts said the hospitality industry was "one of the worst areas of the economy" affected by the pandemic – but that didn't stop the pitiless pair from taking advantage.
"It was a sustained fraud at the expenses of businesses which were doing their best to survive," Judge Peters continued.
You were going out week after week to impress your partner, taking her out for lengthy and impressive dinners at impressive places, knowing you would never pay.
"You were going out week after week to impress your partner, taking her out for lengthy and impressive dinners at impressive places, knowing you would never pay.
"Those businesses were desperate. Their very survival was on the line and you took advantage. This offending was planned over a period of time with a large number of victims."
Rogers owed a total of £2,325 to pubs and restaurants in Suffolk and Norfolk from between January and October last year – prompting owners to come together to stop the swindler.
One suspicious owner of the Angel in Lavenham forced the couple to leave their car keys until they returned to pay up – and even CLAMPED the vehicle to stop them from swiping it in the night.
The Swan landlady Julie exposed the conman in a Facebook post after she was duped and found that many other establishments had been fleeced by Rogers.
She claims she knows of 20 pubs and restaurants where Rogers had struck, although some businesses had not gone to police and others had not yet made statements.
He was finally caught out after the post prompted Suffolk Police to begin a hunt for the couple.
Nicola May, defending, said Rogers had given up work to care for his father who had Parkinson’s disease.
"Around that time, there was a decline in his mental health. He would accept that there was an element of trying to impress his partner and there was an element of escapism."
She added that he was also self-medicating with alcohol at the time and drinking around three bottles of wine a day.
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