FORMER Colac travel agent Jordan Dittloff has pleaded guilty to stealing almost $280,000 from 47 clients including his future mother-in-law over a 12 month period.
The former Ace Travel owner admitted to stealing the money from clients by preparing fraudulent itineraries and cancelling bookings when he appeared at the County Court at Geelong on Wednesday.
Mr Dittloff appeared at the court for the trial which heard victim impact statements from 10 people who discovered lost holiday bookings after the 28-year-old disappeared with their money.
The court heard a statement from Mr Dittloff’s former future mother-in-law that described how Mr Dittloff had stolen $1395 given to her for her 70th birthday, a week before he disappeared on June 1, 2015.
The woman’s statement said she had been saving for a swagman tour with money she had raised through her knitting and sewing.
She also said since the incident doctors had prescribed her anti-anxiety medication and she had fears for her daughter’s future.
The court also heard a statement from a Colac woman who lost more than $6500 to Mr Dittloff for a holiday she had saved for after her husband died.
She said she had retired from her job before leaving for the trip and had no way of recuperating the money.
The woman said losing the money would impact her future travel plans as she had limited money in her retirement.
Crown Prosecutor Raelene Maxwell said that Mr Dittloff stole between $32,000 and $1000 from his clients between July, 2014, and June, 2015, starting with small amounts before the behaviour started escalating in January, 2015.
Ms Maxwell said when police arrested Mr Dittloff he said he had been “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
“He told police that he closed the doors and left the note as he knew it was about the time that people were going to start their travel, but did not have bookings and that everything would unravel,” she said.
“He stated he knew it was wrong, that he deserved to go to jail and he would one day pay the money back.”
Defence lawyer Ian Pugh told the court that Mr Dittloff had mild attention deficit hyperactive disorder and had struggled to maintain the travel business since taking over from his mother in 2013.
Mr Pugh said Mr Dittloff denied stealing the money to feed a drug habit but instead it was to pay his wages and debts.
Mr Dittloff finished a six-month jail sentence last month for trafficking drugs while he was on bail for his theft charges.
Mr Pugh said he had decided to start drug trafficking in an attempt to raise money to pay victims back.
Judge Gerard Mullaly adjourned the case until March 2 for sentencing at the Geelong County Court that people are able to attend.