Two brothers have been convicted of misleading thousands of customers into visiting a what they claimed was a Lapland-style theme park.
Victor and Henry Mears were found guilty by a jury at Bristol Crown Court following a two-month trial of five charges of engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading action.
The jury are still deliberating on a further three counts of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission.
The brothers, of Brighton, Sussex, could have made more than £1 million from up to 10,000 advanced ticket sales for the Lapland New Forest theme park.
Visitors were offered a winter wonderland with snow-covered log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs, polar bears and other animals, as well as a bustling Christmas market.
But instead of the promised magical festive treat, visitors experienced fairy lights hung from trees and a broken ice rink.
Within days of the attraction opening in November 2008, hundreds of disgruntled visitors to the park on the Hampshire-Dorset border complained to trading standards officials that they had been ripped off.
Less than a week later, the attraction closed, with its owners blaming the media and sabotage by “New Forest villains” for the decision.
The eye-catching website offered a “snow-covered village near Bournemouth” with a “magical tunnel of light”, “beautiful snow-covered log cabins”, a “bustling Christmas market”, “wonderful ice rink” and “delicious hot and cold seasonal food”. In bold, the website stated: “The attention to detail of our theme park will truly wow you.”
Prosecutor Malcolm Gibney said of customers at the start of the trial: “Some of them travelled many, many miles and they told of their utter disappointment at what they saw, and their anger. The only feeling of ‘wow’ that many of the consumers felt was ‘wow, what a con’.”