Bogus sheikh conned hotels

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The Independent Online
A STUDENT who fraudulently ran up a pounds 24,000 credit card bill while posing as an Arab sheikh was sentenced to nine months in jail yesterday.

Southwark Crown Court was told that Yasir Elkhazin, 23, was the "front man" in an operation that saw him and friends "live high on the hog" quaffing champagne and gorging on expensive meals. In addition the gang went shopping, hired chauffeur-driven cars and made expensive international phone calls.

Elkhazin - who was sent down from Reading University, where he was a history undergraduate, after dons heard of the escapade - admitted six charges of obtaining services or property by deception between March and April this year.

Judge George Bathurst- Norman said he accepted that Elkhazin was not the brains behind the scam. "However, you were a very valuable front man to this idea. Your services of front man carried with it a degree of conviction and you could get away with playing the necessary part each time."

The court was told that the largest loser was the Sheraton Park Tower Hotel where Elkhazin, posing as Sheikh Omar El Mirghani, stayed in a pounds 1,800-a-night penthouse. The pounds 12,000 bill included a pounds 300 dinner ordered through room service at 6am.

At the Hilton Park Lane hotel, the bill came to pounds 2,018 and at the Lainesborough, in Knightsbridge, he spent pounds 3,128.

Samantha Cohen, for the prosecution, said genuine credit card details were faxed through to the hotels before the arrival of the seemingly wealthy guest. But his spree ended at the Harpenden House Hotel, near St Albans, when staff became suspicious and contacted police.

Jonathan Rees, for the defence, said Elkhazin was not a professional conman. "It was more in the way of a daredevil scheme carried out by a number of young people - although beyond a schoolboy prank - and he lived high on the hog for three weeks ... The fact he came from a privileged background gave him the knowledge to carry off the front."