Hotels up and down the country are counting the cost of falling for a smooth-talking Mr Big – an unemployed man who managed to stay in the lap of luxury in 11 districts of the country, never paying as much as a cêntimo for the pleasure.
The 54-year-old is also understood to have run-up large restaurant bills. But his spree – estimated to have involved at least 60 cases of fraud, theft and abuse of confidence – was brought to an end, thanks in part to the internet.
According to a story in national tabloid Correio de Manhã, people swindled by the conman “started sharing his photo on the net”. Finally police in Viana do Castelo caught up with him.
He was taken before a court in Caminha – the last venue for his shenanigans – and the bench of judges heard how his M.O. had fooled three score establishments.
It was simple. He booked in with full-board, talked big, made lots of friends and then would announce a kind of ‘grand finale’ before his checkout date: a large symposium of businesspeople, all due to wine and dine at the hotel, some even flying in from abroad.
In the “hustle and bustle” of preparations, with hotels “pulling out all the stops to get everything ready on time”, the wily operator would simply disappear, never to be seen or heard of again.
He pulled off his scam at hotels in Faro, Beja, Évora, Porto, Santarém, Guarda, Vila Real, Aveiro, Coimbra, Leiria, and finally in Viana do Castelo.
But what is even more remarkable is that when the man, described as “not having any known profession”, was presented before the court, judges let him go.
Why is not easily explained, but hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and taverns should be forewarned. This man is still out there!