Barletta restaurant owners ‘staring down the barrel of insolvency’ after scammers steal £50,000

Jackson and Natalia of Barletta

A couple who have built up the Barletta restaurant brand in Margate since 2019 say they are facing insolvency after scammers stole £50,000 from their business accounts.

Jackson Berg and Natalia Ribbe say cashflow has been ‘crippled’ and they face the struggle of paying rent and suppliers and keeping their team of 17 staff employed after the sophisticated phone scammers wiped out accounts with two online banks.

Barletta operates from Turner Contemporary after opening at the site last year following residencies at Dreamland, Urchin Wines, the former Ziggy’s rooftop bar and the Rose in June.

The pair have also just opened Sète wine bar and restaurant in Northdown Road.

The scam began last month when small amounts were fraudulently taken from one of the accounts.

Natalia said: “I then received a phone call from the bank and everything matched up so it seemed like it was the bank but it wasn’t. We were victims of a scam by professional criminals who emptied both business accounts of £50,000.

“The banks say they are in the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) but there is a loophole and they do not have the clause that would have protected us.

“At first we kept it to ourselves because we were hoping to get it back but it seems we are just not important to them. They say they are good for small businesses but when it comes down to a business being completely destroyed they are nowhere to be found. Now they say we can’t get it back.

“It has crippled our cash flow and we can’t see a way out. Sète is not as impacted by it as that has its own account but we are literally staring down the barrel of insolvency and can’t plan for the next three or six months.

“We created a home in Margate and have a new business getting off the ground. We have worked so hard.

“It’s absolutely devastating to think it could all be washed away because of some criminals and two very lousy banks who don’t seem to understand what protecting a small business means.”

But Natalia says she and Jackson have also been overwhelmed by the kindness and support from friends and the community.

One of those friends, Lauren Barnett, has set up a GoFundMe page in a bid to help the pair save Barletta.

On the page Lauren says: “They have created wonderful places for people to eat & drink and a caring, nurturing home for their teams to grow. The deadline to save the business is nigh.”

Natalia said: “We feel overwhelmed by the kindness and all the messages of support. We know £50,000 is a lot of money but if people chip in £5 each we can keep going and it would help keep our 17 staff employed.”


The Isle of Thanet News contacted online bank Tide which says it has done all it can and managed to retrieve a portion of the money – understood to be around £2000.

A spokesperson for Tide said: “We are very sorry for the loss the owners of Barletta have suffered. We appreciate this type of scam is incredibly hard on small businesses. We continuously encourage all of our members to be vigilant and visit our website where we offer advice on fraud prevention.

“In this case, once we were informed of the fraud, we contacted the bank where the money had been transferred on the same day and were able to recover some of the money that remained in the account. Unfortunately, the rest of the money had been moved on.

“We have investigated the matter thoroughly and believe we did all we could to recover as much of the money as we could as quickly as possible.”

An update on the fundraising page added by the organiser says: “Every donor will receive a refund if the money is retrieved from the bank- Although Natalia has recently received written clarification from Tide that they will not be returning the money.

“Natalia and Jackson have files with both Action Farid & the Financial Ombudsman.”

Find the fundraiser by clicking here

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    • Almost certainly the bank after humming & harring for a month or so will give it back to avoid any more bad publicity. Then they can keep whatever they make on top, or give it back-they are already over 2k in just a day, they could well have the 50k, or somewhere near it, by the time the bank probably coughs up.

  1. What I don’t get is, you put your money in a bank for safekeeping. A criminal gets access to the money and takes it out the bank. It used to be called a Bank Robbery!
    If a bank left its doors and safe open, allowed someone to walk in and remove my cash how is that my fault?
    In this case the banks cyber security was not able to prevent this “scam” how is it the account holders fault?

    • Probably because the scammers defrauded the couple, not the bank. It was not the bank that left its safe doors open, but (virtually, as it were) the couple.
      I don’t know the details, but one scam goes like this:
      You get a phone call from your “bank” (ie, the scammers). Unusual activity has been detected on your account, they say. They suspect hackers are trying to steal your money. The police are involved, you are told. In an attempt to catch the criminals, your “bank” (the scammers), in conjunction with the police, want to allow the scam to continue, but to protect your money, your “bank” has created a new account for you. For security reasons, they urge you to move your money into this new, safe account.
      The moment you do, the account is emptied and closed. Your money, and the scammers, are gone. The scammers are very clever and very plausible.

      When I use internet banking, and I’m setting up a new money transfer, the bank urges me to make sure this is not a scam; if there is any doubt, to immediately close the browser.

    • I am struggling to work out the con-small amounts started vanishing & then the calls started? Why wouldn’t the scammers have wiped it out right away? Did they have access to one account only & needed to convince them they were the bank to get access to the other one/do the old transfer the other account money into this one ploy?

      How did they gain access to the first account to take small amounts? Was it an employee giving these fraudsters details, had one of this duo already been conned by a scam call, or clicking on an e-mail attachment or link & not known it?

      But yes, it seems very strange that the bank regardless of how security was compromised allowed such large withdrawals to happen without putting a freeze on the accounts or contacting them. Trying to place an order with a supermarket for a piddling amount often you have to get a phone call with a code to enter before they will process it,m yet the bank didn’t find it suspicious that tens of thousands were being transferred elsewhere?

      • Steve: see the scenario I outlined above.
        If the victims thought that they were making a legitimate transfer, then they would have happily recieved a one-time pass code via SMS and used it to confirm the transaction.

  2. I initially lost £120,000 to fraudulent activity a while back. The perpetrators got away with it and whilst I got some of the money back I still ended up £70,000 short. We, the little people, get screwed and the criminals, it would appear, get away with it. It’s a great shame. I do hope they get the £50,000 to keep the businesses going 😥

    • Lovely to read a sympathetic comment. So easy to fall victim to this scam. Ive seen it on tv time and time again. I saw this distraught restaurant owner on tv and have nothing but sympathy for her. Banks do very little to combat fraud. I bought a shed by visa from a scammer . Got my money back but visa facility not withdrawn from scammer. Many others lost hundreds. Shameful banks. Wouldnt speak with me about it when I phoned.

    • But is it the bank’s fault? If it’s UK banks involved, then they all work to the same FSCS rules.
      And at the end of the day, it won’t be the bank’s shareholders that pay any compensation: it will be the rest of us, in the long run.

      • it was certainly the banks fault that they crashed the economy via decades of misselling & greed & we will be paying for that forever. It is certainly their fault they have laundered huge sums for the drug cartels & we will be paying those fines for a long time to come.

        50k is a drop in the ocean-especially as regardless of how they gained access in the first place the bank was hugely negligent in letting such sums be taken out without contacting them.

        If your bank phones you to make sure it is you trying to order 60 quids worth of groceries from ASDA, Waitrose etc, then how the hell can they not bother when it is 50 grand being taken?

    • Yep, go to the national television consumer shows & newspapers with it-they usually back down pretty fast. I suspect they will get the money back in the near future with enough publicity.

  3. I feel before money (pure donations) are raised some proof of the fraud (and their overall financial position/cashflow viability) needs to be provided. If money goes missing a business such as this could easily delay paying their landlord, HMRC, etc – while they tried to resolve it, push the banks with PR etc – rather than asking for pure handouts from the public – the business would not immediately become unviable overnight.

  4. Press 1471 after 1st call, then go to your Bank personally and ask them if this is a genuine phone number for them. If it’s an unknown number from your Bank, they will tell you. If, and when they call you back (scammers), just tell them you have also been in touch with the Fraud Squad at Scotland Yard, and you have handed all recorded messages and phone numbers to them and your Bank…..
    They will quickly hang up.

      • Well,if it is £50000,£5000 isn’t going to go far,regardless of the kindness.They will still be 90% short of the target.Have they been down all other avenues,before embarking on a “fund me”?

        • They didn’t set up the gofundme, it was done by a friend. What they really hoped was that the banks would refund due to it being a scam.

  5. Write to Katie Morley at the Telegraph. She gets money back for people after being victims of fraud that were less sophisticated than this.

    • We managed to get money back for an elderly man who was scammed in this way. I have contacted the banks but need to give them a bit of time to respond before inserting the names.

  6. i walk past sete most evenings,, busy when open
    items for sale in the window,,, @ £225.00
    yes £225.00 on NDR
    shudnt take too long to crowdfund the loss from their customers

  7. I hope they & so many others start to realize that there are people out there who want to take from you. If someone called you & you gave them access its down to you, not the bank. I hope you get it back though.

  8. Has anyone has seen evidence of this fraud. They are asking for peoples money but what if there was no fraud? Did Isle of Thanet investigate properly or just take these peoples word for it.

  9. Legal Eagle is dead right …..
    I can remember a gofundme being set up by a woman with cancer in Broadstairs a few years back – This needs investigating from all angles by both the banks security & the cyber police, it could take a while – I hope they get it all sorted soon

    • Exactly.That Vile woman in Edge End Road conned thousands out of people,to finance her excessive lifestyle.Money that could have gone to help genuine cases.
      I think that this needs investigating ,before people jump in,donating.
      As I said before,she is asking for £1000 kind people to donate £5 each,but claims to need £50000.That is £45000 short.

  10. Absolute contempt for the scammers and I feel sorry for this hard-working couple and wish them success in getting their money refunded. And Kathy’s involvement re. bank is impressive. What I can’t quite get my head around is the concept of contributing to a GoFundMe for a business. The way businesses work is that you pay the value of whatever you buy plus the cost of labour plus a bit more. So in a sense we’re always ‘donating’.

    • Exactly,Carina.I would have thought that inviting people to pay for a meal,would be more enterprising than just asking for a donation,just like a charity shop does.

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