Serial conman Mark Chapman, who fleeced hotels, pubs and restaurants by not paying the bills, avoids jail term

A serial conman who ran up large, unpaid bills at hotels, pubs and restaurants in North Yorkshire has been spared jail.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 3:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 3:08 pm

Mark Anthony Chapman, 42, formerly of Scarborough, was the bane of hoteliers, restaurateurs and publicans throughout the county for his uncanny knack of being able to gorge himself on meals and drink and stay in swanky hotels without paying the bill.

Chapman - whose 24-year criminal career includes more than 20 previous convictions, many for theft and fraud - had been hoodwinking the county’s hostelries for years, costing them thousands of pounds, when his latest fraud spree brought him back before the courts this week following a Facebook campaign by irate business owners determined to catch the dodgy drifter.

He appeared at York Crown Court for deferred sentence on Wednesday for four counts of fraud, four counts of making off without payment, theft and criminal damage.

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His latest crime spree began in September 2019 when he “wrecked” his ex-girlfriend’s home in Gladstone Road, Scarborough, said prosecutor Michael Bosomworth.

On the previous night, he had tried to rekindle their relationship, but she turned him down, whereupon an “enraged” Chapman sent her abusive text messages, went to her home and began smashing it up.

“Two wheelie bins were tipped over, a window was smashed, excrement was smeared over the front door and window,” said Mr Bosomworth.

“There was damage to the (front) door and a brick was thrown through another window, and the back door was damaged.”

The total damage to the rented property was estimated at £2,235.

Chapman, formerly of Albemarle Road, Scarborough, was arrested but claimed he had no memory of the attack because he was drunk.

He was released on bail but was soon up to his old tricks when he ran up a large bill at a bar and restaurant in York and left without paying.

The manager recognised him from an article in the press and brought him back to the bar, where the trickster offered to pay on a Santander card which didn’t work. Police were called and Chapman was booked again.

Twelve days later, he ran up a £127 bill at a posh restaurant in York and making a fraudulent offer to pay on a dodgy cash card that was rejected.

The restaurant manager sent out a social-media alert to other licensed premises to “look out for (Chapman)”, but the trickster went on to pull the same con at other restaurants and gastro-pubs where he racked up three-figure bills and set up bar tabs before leaving without payment.

Over Christmas 2019, he booked himself in for a week-long stay at a guest house near Thirsk, by claiming to be a businessman and using a false, double-barrelled surname.

“He said he was running a business (and had) a business account,” said Mr Bosomworth.

“He made a booking for a ‘business associate’ between December 19 and 28.”

Chapman told hotel staff his name was ‘Marcus’ and stayed at the hotel for up to nine days, running up a bill of £1,155.

He offered to pay with a card number which didn’t work but got away with the ruse until he “ran off”.

He went on his final fraud splurge in East Yorkshire in January 2020, running up bills amounting to more than £200 at hostelries in Hornsea, Beverley and Hull. He later handed himself in at Bridlington Police Station.

Chapman, who is unemployed, appeared for deferred sentence on Wednesday in front of judge Sean Morris, who had initially postponed the conman’s sentence in June last year when he gave him one last chance to avoid another jail sentence by staying out of trouble and not going into any licensed premises.

The court heard that Chapman, who moved from Scarborough to York in February last year, had racked up 42 previous offences and had been in and out of prison since 2005, when he was jailed for stealing from his employer.

His last prison sentence was in February 2018, when he was jailed for two-and-a-half years for numerous similar frauds where he used fake credit-card numbers at establishments including a hotel in Scarborough. He had also targeted hostelries in Malton and previously a plush hotel in Harrogate.

Defence barrister Catherine Silverton said Chapman was an alcoholic who had sought help from the Changing Lives rehabilitation charity in York.

Judge Mr Morris labelled Chapman a “public nuisance” but said he would spare him jail on this occasion because he had not reoffended during the deferment period.

Chapman was given an eight-month suspended jail sentence and slapped with a four-month, nightly doorstep curfew.

He was also given a five-year restraining order which prohibits him consuming any meals or alcohol in any licensed premises without paying in cash in advance or booking any hotel or B&B rooms without full payment being made in advance.

Mr Morris warned Chapman that he would “hammer” him with a stiff prison sentence if he breached the order or “abused publicans and hoteliers or café owners by going in and gorging yourself and doing a runner”.