Former Billericay restaurant boss under investigation over "cruisemiles" scheme

Richard Lester

Richard Lester

First published in Local News
Last updated
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A CRUISE company run by the former owner of the Rare Cow restaurant chain is being investigated by police after scores of people paid for trips they never went on.

Richard Lester's Cruisemile’s website was suspended this month and customers claim they have been unable to find out what has happened to cruises they booked.

Mr Lester ran the Rare Cow steak eateries in Jackson's Lane, Billericay; Chequers Road, Writtle and High Road, Earls Colne, until last month when he sold up for an undisclosed sum for financial reasons.

The main UK company involved in Cruisemiles, Cruise Direct UK, was struck off the Companies House register for not filing its annual accounts last Tuesday.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We have received a number of complaints about this company and extensive inquires are continuing to establish whether any crimes have been committed.”

Sandra Snelling, 68, and husband David, 69, have been trying to get back more than £1,400 they paid for two cruises in installments from 2010.

Echo:

Sold: The Billericay branch

She said: “We were booked on two cruises, but then last autumn the cancellations started and we have had nothing and get no responses.”

Mr Lester, who also calls himself Lord Richard Lester and counts celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay as a friend, has denied any wrongdoing.

He said Cruisemiles was run from Essex and Nevada, USA.

He said: “The US company went into liquidation, but I tried to prop it up with money from the restaurants.

Echo:

Haut cuisine: Fine dining at the Rare Cow

Two years ago we won the World Travel Awards in our category and things were going great, but business multiplied so much that Paypal stopped our account because they classed travel as high risk. I tried to look for other people to process the payments, it was my baby that I started from scratch seven years ago.”

He added: “About 80 to 100 people have not had their cruises. The fraud squad did get in touch, but I thought there was going to be no further action. I suppose the police will have to take all complaints on board, but my legal guy has a statement prepared showing that everything was legitimate.”

Rare Cow was launched by Mr Lester in April 2013 and specialises in fine steaks from more
unusual breeds of cow. It won Essex Restaurant of the Year last year.

Are you an affected Cruisemiles customer?

Contact investigations reporter Jon Austin on 01268 469294 or email jon.austin@nqe.com.

 

 

 

 

Comments (18)

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10:52pm Wed 6 Aug 14

Robin Reliant says...

Looks a cool dude. :)
Looks a cool dude. :) Robin Reliant
  • Score: -9

3:03am Thu 7 Aug 14

CRUISMILES says...

Mr Lester is as usual playing down this matter,there are many more than the 80 to 100 cruises lost,there was over 300 cancelled in 2013/14,where the money went that was paid for these cruises by the 100s of members has never been acccounted for.We who have joined together on Cruisemiles pi**edconsumers will continue to bring this matter to the Essex Police rest assured of that MR LESTER....
Mr Lester is as usual playing down this matter,there are many more than the 80 to 100 cruises lost,there was over 300 cancelled in 2013/14,where the money went that was paid for these cruises by the 100s of members has never been acccounted for.We who have joined together on Cruisemiles pi**edconsumers will continue to bring this matter to the Essex Police rest assured of that MR LESTER.... CRUISMILES
  • Score: 14

4:23am Thu 7 Aug 14

ex cruisemiles member says...

I was a member since very early on.At first we cruised a couple of times but alas the excuses became common and last year they had massive cancellations.over 700 cruises,about 300 members or so lost as many as 5-6 cruise fully paid and confirmed.Some members had booked flights and were stranded on the pier without any bookings.The service was non existant.Some people paid upgrade by credit card and lost that money.some even paid for other members cruises.At the end a 50euro fee was implemented that was suppose to be in an escrow account to pay 1 employee but even him was not paid.escrow was never done.i surely hope the Essex police take this seriously.We have now had 5 different investigators.It needs more attentions to at least have justice served.100 cruises Richard is talking about must the the one's he went on because the members didn't.We lost 1000's of euro's and we know that it's not possible to open 4 high class restaurants on a showstring budget...
I was a member since very early on.At first we cruised a couple of times but alas the excuses became common and last year they had massive cancellations.over 700 cruises,about 300 members or so lost as many as 5-6 cruise fully paid and confirmed.Some members had booked flights and were stranded on the pier without any bookings.The service was non existant.Some people paid upgrade by credit card and lost that money.some even paid for other members cruises.At the end a 50euro fee was implemented that was suppose to be in an escrow account to pay 1 employee but even him was not paid.escrow was never done.i surely hope the Essex police take this seriously.We have now had 5 different investigators.It needs more attentions to at least have justice served.100 cruises Richard is talking about must the the one's he went on because the members didn't.We lost 1000's of euro's and we know that it's not possible to open 4 high class restaurants on a showstring budget... ex cruisemiles member
  • Score: 15

7:05am Thu 7 Aug 14

CRUISMILES says...

All the above comments are true and yes we expect the ESSEX POLICE to take action over this instead of pushing it sideways from one officer to another....
All the above comments are true and yes we expect the ESSEX POLICE to take action over this instead of pushing it sideways from one officer to another.... CRUISMILES
  • Score: 14

8:07am Thu 7 Aug 14

pembury53 says...

its a cruise ship lifestyle and fine dining for Richard lester from now on...
its a cruise ship lifestyle and fine dining for Richard lester from now on... pembury53
  • Score: 0

7:08pm Thu 7 Aug 14

unhappycruisermiler1 says...

he sold vouchers and cruisemiles that were supposed to be redeemed for cruises. he used up all of the money in order to get into the restaurant business. he gambled that the restaurant profits would pay for the cruises...he ran out of money and 'suspended operations'. not once has he told us where our money went. he has avoided communicating and responding to members for years. I am not a lawyer, but it sounds like fraud to me...
also, he claims only 80-100 victims, as though to minimize the damage that he has caused. Suppose he claimed that "I only mugged 80-100 people" or "I only injured 80 or so people when I drove my car into the crowd"...pitiful, really.
he sold vouchers and cruisemiles that were supposed to be redeemed for cruises. he used up all of the money in order to get into the restaurant business. he gambled that the restaurant profits would pay for the cruises...he ran out of money and 'suspended operations'. not once has he told us where our money went. he has avoided communicating and responding to members for years. I am not a lawyer, but it sounds like fraud to me... also, he claims only 80-100 victims, as though to minimize the damage that he has caused. Suppose he claimed that "I only mugged 80-100 people" or "I only injured 80 or so people when I drove my car into the crowd"...pitiful, really. unhappycruisermiler1
  • Score: 16

7:17pm Thu 7 Aug 14

ex cruisemiles member says...

His legal guy will help him out.i hope it's the same legal team as the one's he hired from NY or the investigative team to find the rogue agent that stole from him...of course all false,just excuses to cancel cruises.I guess he forgot to mention that to the reporter.
His legal guy will help him out.i hope it's the same legal team as the one's he hired from NY or the investigative team to find the rogue agent that stole from him...of course all false,just excuses to cancel cruises.I guess he forgot to mention that to the reporter. ex cruisemiles member
  • Score: 14

11:46pm Thu 7 Aug 14

LIEster says...

Wow - just WOW. 80-100 people? I personally know many people who have lost cruises just in the small area I live in. The Cruisemiles debacle has affected people all over the world and it's an insult for Richard Lester to try and minimize the scale of this nightmare. I would love to know where all the money went that was collected from customers who trusted him and believed Cruisemiles to be a legitimate company. Does the statement prepared by his "legal guy" explain what PayPal's refusal to process payments has to do with the fact that Lester KEPT customers' money without supplying the cruises they paid for? That money didn't simply disappear - and it wasn't used to pay for the cruises people purchased. So where is it??
Wow - just WOW. 80-100 people? I personally know many people who have lost cruises just in the small area I live in. The Cruisemiles debacle has affected people all over the world and it's an insult for Richard Lester to try and minimize the scale of this nightmare. I would love to know where all the money went that was collected from customers who trusted him and believed Cruisemiles to be a legitimate company. Does the statement prepared by his "legal guy" explain what PayPal's refusal to process payments has to do with the fact that Lester KEPT customers' money without supplying the cruises they paid for? That money didn't simply disappear - and it wasn't used to pay for the cruises people purchased. So where is it?? LIEster
  • Score: 16

3:22am Fri 8 Aug 14

CRUISMILES says...

He said Cruisemiles was run from Essex and Nevada, USA.

He said: “The US company went into liquidation, but I tried to prop it up with money from the restaurants.
This is just a total lie Cruisemiles was and is a "one man show" just another "muddy the water" job,this man would and does blame everyone for the fact this went bad.
The questions is WHERE DID THE MONEY GO and I think it is pretty clear reading here and why the Police must act......
He said Cruisemiles was run from Essex and Nevada, USA. He said: “The US company went into liquidation, but I tried to prop it up with money from the restaurants. This is just a total lie Cruisemiles was and is a "one man show" just another "muddy the water" job,this man would and does blame everyone for the fact this went bad. The questions is WHERE DID THE MONEY GO and I think it is pretty clear reading here and why the Police must act...... CRUISMILES
  • Score: 10

3:37am Fri 8 Aug 14

ex cruisemiles member says...

richard says also was CEO of cruise direct UK.a number company that didn't deliver any services and no employees,phone,etc.
it was a p.o. box.CEO of a mailbox is quite an accomplishment.All to look good and we got caught.
richard says also was CEO of cruise direct UK.a number company that didn't deliver any services and no employees,phone,etc. it was a p.o. box.CEO of a mailbox is quite an accomplishment.All to look good and we got caught. ex cruisemiles member
  • Score: 7

11:08am Fri 8 Aug 14

notabrit says...

I too was a victim of cruisemiles. I was told by an ex employee that the number of cruises lost totalled over 700 and perhaps more when you factor in what is now lost in 2014 and beyong. His comments are certainly downplayed. In fact Mr Lester can be very nasty at times. My daughter was told to stop emailing when she wanted an important answer to her question, like when is roll call, which also never happened. She was not answered but rather told to stop emailing or she would be banned from the site. There are many heart breaking stories out there indeed. If nothing else, I have gained some wonderful friends out of this, but lost money in return.
I too was a victim of cruisemiles. I was told by an ex employee that the number of cruises lost totalled over 700 and perhaps more when you factor in what is now lost in 2014 and beyong. His comments are certainly downplayed. In fact Mr Lester can be very nasty at times. My daughter was told to stop emailing when she wanted an important answer to her question, like when is roll call, which also never happened. She was not answered but rather told to stop emailing or she would be banned from the site. There are many heart breaking stories out there indeed. If nothing else, I have gained some wonderful friends out of this, but lost money in return. notabrit
  • Score: 8

11:15am Fri 8 Aug 14

notabrit says...

I might also add that the travel award that he has displayed and mentions as having being won a couple years back, and mentions in this article and was still displayed on his travel site, was taken away from him along with the next years nomination. I guess he forgot to mention that.
I might also add that the travel award that he has displayed and mentions as having being won a couple years back, and mentions in this article and was still displayed on his travel site, was taken away from him along with the next years nomination. I guess he forgot to mention that. notabrit
  • Score: 10

1:02pm Fri 8 Aug 14

ex cruisemiles member says...

notabrit wrote:
I might also add that the travel award that he has displayed and mentions as having being won a couple years back, and mentions in this article and was still displayed on his travel site, was taken away from him along with the next years nomination. I guess he forgot to mention that.
And don't forget that he has plans for a re-branding with new ownership his words on the last update july 31st coming out of this with a POTENTIAL BUYER and wants us to put our miles in a folder without having any agreements.,i wonder who and if the info will be public or just the same thing that got us all .i will certainly not get involved in anything where he's part of it!He of course says would only be there for the start as an unpaid consutant.
[quote][p][bold]notabrit[/bold] wrote: I might also add that the travel award that he has displayed and mentions as having being won a couple years back, and mentions in this article and was still displayed on his travel site, was taken away from him along with the next years nomination. I guess he forgot to mention that.[/p][/quote]And don't forget that he has plans for a re-branding with new ownership his words on the last update july 31st coming out of this with a POTENTIAL BUYER and wants us to put our miles in a folder without having any agreements.,i wonder who and if the info will be public or just the same thing that got us all .i will certainly not get involved in anything where he's part of it!He of course says would only be there for the start as an unpaid consutant. ex cruisemiles member
  • Score: 9

8:44am Sat 9 Aug 14

twiggy53 says...

This fat scumbag has fiddled me and my father out of £2600 pounds in cruise miles points and needs to be stopped by the police, there are hundreds of people that have fallen victims of this fraud all around the world he is a liar and a fake, cancelled our cruise that were booked a year in advance with out any thought as to what this would be for us all. Pissedconsumer.com has some reviews. I think the public should be made aware of this sad pathetic person Richard Lester, and to think that he may be friends with the likes of Gordan Ramsey etc they really need to take a rain check and dig deep into this creeps business ventures.
This fat scumbag has fiddled me and my father out of £2600 pounds in cruise miles points and needs to be stopped by the police, there are hundreds of people that have fallen victims of this fraud all around the world he is a liar and a fake, cancelled our cruise that were booked a year in advance with out any thought as to what this would be for us all. Pissedconsumer.com has some reviews. I think the public should be made aware of this sad pathetic person Richard Lester, and to think that he may be friends with the likes of Gordan Ramsey etc they really need to take a rain check and dig deep into this creeps business ventures. twiggy53
  • Score: 7

11:14am Sat 9 Aug 14

notsailingkev says...

This bloke is a real piece of work. Advertised cruises that weren't purchased. All went down hill last year when he couldn't purchase the
cruises.

Here's his excuse

"Dear Guest
RCCL/Celebrity Group Cancellations
Unfortunately as you may have read in the forum our travel partner for Some 2013 RCCL/Celebrity
Cruises has been asked to cease and desist from making international group bookings.
Your booking for 11th march is one of the effected groups which has been cancelled as a result of this.
We are currently looking at options for either similar sailings or will refund double Miles back
So you can rebook a better future offer.
We realise this is a big disruption to plans but unfortunately completely out of our control.
Problems like this are a rare occurrence but is why we have said in the past not to book airfare until tickets are issued as we receive no compensation for occurrences like this until ticketing occurs and then only within cruiselines standard terms.
Please be patient as this has created a whole heap of extra work for myself and Reservations.
Yours Faithfully
Richard
Director of operations"

Strung hopeful cruisers along for miles. Many heartbroken and broke
people this bloke and his sidekicks have ripped off around the world.
This bloke is a real piece of work. Advertised cruises that weren't purchased. All went down hill last year when he couldn't purchase the cruises. Here's his excuse "Dear Guest RCCL/Celebrity Group Cancellations Unfortunately as you may have read in the forum our travel partner for Some 2013 RCCL/Celebrity Cruises has been asked to cease and desist from making international group bookings. Your booking for 11th march is one of the effected groups which has been cancelled as a result of this. We are currently looking at options for either similar sailings or will refund double Miles back So you can rebook a better future offer. We realise this is a big disruption to plans but unfortunately completely out of our control. Problems like this are a rare occurrence but is why we have said in the past not to book airfare until tickets are issued as we receive no compensation for occurrences like this until ticketing occurs and then only within cruiselines standard terms. Please be patient as this has created a whole heap of extra work for myself and Reservations. Yours Faithfully Richard Director of operations" Strung hopeful cruisers along for miles. Many heartbroken and broke people this bloke and his sidekicks have ripped off around the world. notsailingkev
  • Score: 6

1:26pm Sat 9 Aug 14

ex cruisemiles member says...

notsailingkev wrote:
This bloke is a real piece of work. Advertised cruises that weren't purchased. All went down hill last year when he couldn't purchase the
cruises.

Here's his excuse

"Dear Guest
RCCL/Celebrity Group Cancellations
Unfortunately as you may have read in the forum our travel partner for Some 2013 RCCL/Celebrity
Cruises has been asked to cease and desist from making international group bookings.
Your booking for 11th march is one of the effected groups which has been cancelled as a result of this.
We are currently looking at options for either similar sailings or will refund double Miles back
So you can rebook a better future offer.
We realise this is a big disruption to plans but unfortunately completely out of our control.
Problems like this are a rare occurrence but is why we have said in the past not to book airfare until tickets are issued as we receive no compensation for occurrences like this until ticketing occurs and then only within cruiselines standard terms.
Please be patient as this has created a whole heap of extra work for myself and Reservations.
Yours Faithfully
Richard
Director of operations"

Strung hopeful cruisers along for miles. Many heartbroken and broke
people this bloke and his sidekicks have ripped off around the world.
Oh I'm sure Richard has all those contracts from the cruiselines.....i'm kidding,ANYBODY INVESTIGATING will probably find no contracts at all because if he had contracts he would've been able to fight against these cancellations.And this didn't concern only yours sadly it was used for all rccl at one time that were on auctions last year.Just one to put on the pile of excuses to cancel paid in full cruises.
[quote][p][bold]notsailingkev[/bold] wrote: This bloke is a real piece of work. Advertised cruises that weren't purchased. All went down hill last year when he couldn't purchase the cruises. Here's his excuse "Dear Guest RCCL/Celebrity Group Cancellations Unfortunately as you may have read in the forum our travel partner for Some 2013 RCCL/Celebrity Cruises has been asked to cease and desist from making international group bookings. Your booking for 11th march is one of the effected groups which has been cancelled as a result of this. We are currently looking at options for either similar sailings or will refund double Miles back So you can rebook a better future offer. We realise this is a big disruption to plans but unfortunately completely out of our control. Problems like this are a rare occurrence but is why we have said in the past not to book airfare until tickets are issued as we receive no compensation for occurrences like this until ticketing occurs and then only within cruiselines standard terms. Please be patient as this has created a whole heap of extra work for myself and Reservations. Yours Faithfully Richard Director of operations" Strung hopeful cruisers along for miles. Many heartbroken and broke people this bloke and his sidekicks have ripped off around the world.[/p][/quote]Oh I'm sure Richard has all those contracts from the cruiselines.....i'm kidding,ANYBODY INVESTIGATING will probably find no contracts at all because if he had contracts he would've been able to fight against these cancellations.And this didn't concern only yours sadly it was used for all rccl at one time that were on auctions last year.Just one to put on the pile of excuses to cancel paid in full cruises. ex cruisemiles member
  • Score: 3

1:41pm Sat 9 Aug 14

ex cruisemiles member says...

notabrit wrote:
I too was a victim of cruisemiles. I was told by an ex employee that the number of cruises lost totalled over 700 and perhaps more when you factor in what is now lost in 2014 and beyong. His comments are certainly downplayed. In fact Mr Lester can be very nasty at times. My daughter was told to stop emailing when she wanted an important answer to her question, like when is roll call, which also never happened. She was not answered but rather told to stop emailing or she would be banned from the site. There are many heart breaking stories out there indeed. If nothing else, I have gained some wonderful friends out of this, but lost money in return.
On the rare cow about us section ,Richard lester,richard howard lester,lord foodie,lord lester or Richie lester,

yes,those are all the same person said that he sold his restaurant to Alfie and he started those 4 restaurants on a SHOESTRING budget.
I'm sure were the one's that bought the shoestring because we didn't buy any cruises.
[quote][p][bold]notabrit[/bold] wrote: I too was a victim of cruisemiles. I was told by an ex employee that the number of cruises lost totalled over 700 and perhaps more when you factor in what is now lost in 2014 and beyong. His comments are certainly downplayed. In fact Mr Lester can be very nasty at times. My daughter was told to stop emailing when she wanted an important answer to her question, like when is roll call, which also never happened. She was not answered but rather told to stop emailing or she would be banned from the site. There are many heart breaking stories out there indeed. If nothing else, I have gained some wonderful friends out of this, but lost money in return.[/p][/quote]On the rare cow about us section ,Richard lester,richard howard lester,lord foodie,lord lester or Richie lester, yes,those are all the same person said that he sold his restaurant to Alfie and he started those 4 restaurants on a SHOESTRING budget. I'm sure were the one's that bought the shoestring because we didn't buy any cruises. ex cruisemiles member
  • Score: 4

5:14pm Sat 9 Aug 14

LIEster says...

ex cruisemiles member wrote:
notsailingkev wrote:
This bloke is a real piece of work. Advertised cruises that weren't purchased. All went down hill last year when he couldn't purchase the
cruises.

Here's his excuse

"Dear Guest
RCCL/Celebrity Group Cancellations
Unfortunately as you may have read in the forum our travel partner for Some 2013 RCCL/Celebrity
Cruises has been asked to cease and desist from making international group bookings.
Your booking for 11th march is one of the effected groups which has been cancelled as a result of this.
We are currently looking at options for either similar sailings or will refund double Miles back
So you can rebook a better future offer.
We realise this is a big disruption to plans but unfortunately completely out of our control.
Problems like this are a rare occurrence but is why we have said in the past not to book airfare until tickets are issued as we receive no compensation for occurrences like this until ticketing occurs and then only within cruiselines standard terms.
Please be patient as this has created a whole heap of extra work for myself and Reservations.
Yours Faithfully
Richard
Director of operations"

Strung hopeful cruisers along for miles. Many heartbroken and broke
people this bloke and his sidekicks have ripped off around the world.
Oh I'm sure Richard has all those contracts from the cruiselines.....i'm kidding,ANYBODY INVESTIGATING will probably find no contracts at all because if he had contracts he would've been able to fight against these cancellations.And this didn't concern only yours sadly it was used for all rccl at one time that were on auctions last year.Just one to put on the pile of excuses to cancel paid in full cruises.
Yes - between myself, my family and friends we booked and paid for 11 cruises that were cancelled by Lester - not the cruiselines. Those ships sailed without us yet we never got our money back. I will add that not a single one of those cruises were on RCCL. They were on Carnival and Celebrity. The excuses never end with Lester. And they never make a lick of sense either. Together, we lost thousands of dollars and not one of us had a penny of that money returned by Lester or any explanation other than his couple of form emails containing rambling, incoherent excuses.
[quote][p][bold]ex cruisemiles member[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]notsailingkev[/bold] wrote: This bloke is a real piece of work. Advertised cruises that weren't purchased. All went down hill last year when he couldn't purchase the cruises. Here's his excuse "Dear Guest RCCL/Celebrity Group Cancellations Unfortunately as you may have read in the forum our travel partner for Some 2013 RCCL/Celebrity Cruises has been asked to cease and desist from making international group bookings. Your booking for 11th march is one of the effected groups which has been cancelled as a result of this. We are currently looking at options for either similar sailings or will refund double Miles back So you can rebook a better future offer. We realise this is a big disruption to plans but unfortunately completely out of our control. Problems like this are a rare occurrence but is why we have said in the past not to book airfare until tickets are issued as we receive no compensation for occurrences like this until ticketing occurs and then only within cruiselines standard terms. Please be patient as this has created a whole heap of extra work for myself and Reservations. Yours Faithfully Richard Director of operations" Strung hopeful cruisers along for miles. Many heartbroken and broke people this bloke and his sidekicks have ripped off around the world.[/p][/quote]Oh I'm sure Richard has all those contracts from the cruiselines.....i'm kidding,ANYBODY INVESTIGATING will probably find no contracts at all because if he had contracts he would've been able to fight against these cancellations.And this didn't concern only yours sadly it was used for all rccl at one time that were on auctions last year.Just one to put on the pile of excuses to cancel paid in full cruises.[/p][/quote]Yes - between myself, my family and friends we booked and paid for 11 cruises that were cancelled by Lester - not the cruiselines. Those ships sailed without us yet we never got our money back. I will add that not a single one of those cruises were on RCCL. They were on Carnival and Celebrity. The excuses never end with Lester. And they never make a lick of sense either. Together, we lost thousands of dollars and not one of us had a penny of that money returned by Lester or any explanation other than his couple of form emails containing rambling, incoherent excuses. LIEster
  • Score: 10

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