September 30, 2022

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It's time to think about Travel.

Texas travel agent scammed Florida clients with bogus trips

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Juan Carlos Arteaga promised his consumers steep discount rates on excursions while keeping himself out as a travel agent in northeast Florida, in accordance to federal prosecutors.

But the journey arrangements had been seldom — if ever — booked. Alternatively, the authorities claimed, Arteaga pocketed the funds to fork out for dwelling costs or cover the expense of reserving other people’s vacations in an effort and hard work to stave off suspicion. He was in the end accused of stealing a lot more than $800,000 from customers more than 10 months in 2018 and 2019.

A federal choose sentenced Arteaga on April 20 to a few years in federal prison — a considerably cry from the a single working day in jail his defense lawyer had requested.

The decide also purchased him to pay back $784,364 in restitution to his victims and forfeit an more $843,187.

Arteaga, who was taken into custody shortly immediately after his sentencing listening to in the Center District of Florida, could not be attained for remark. His defense legal professional did not right away reply to McClatchy News’ request for remark on April 22.

Arteaga is 58 and presently life in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston. His lawyer reported in sentencing documents that he has expressed “extreme remorse” about what occurred.

According to the governing administration, Arteaga was living in Jacksonville, Florida, in March 2018 when he started marketing “heavily discounted journey preparations for both of those domestic and international journey.” Prosecutors explained he was not a certified vacation agent and was working as a “de facto” agent.

Arteaga’s purchasers incorporated his friends, company contacts, acquaintances and their referrals who considered he could get them very good deals on flights, hotel rooms and tickets to amusement parks, according to court paperwork.

Prosecutors explained Arteaga utilised some of the money to include the price tag of journey arrangements for other clientele — a tactic that “delayed discovery of the scheme” considering that it appeared as even though he was adhering to by on his claims. He also made use of the income to pay back his house loan, just take out quick-term loans, pay back credit history card and cable bills, buy groceries and deal with the price of nursing property costs, the federal government mentioned.

According to courtroom filings, two of Arteaga’s victims were being longtime friends with whom he and his spouse had previously taken a number of vacations with each other.

The few, recognized in court docket files as P.C. and A.C., reportedly told Arteaga in 2018 about their plans to e book a environment tour by non-public plane with Street Scholar, a nonprofit journey firm that ideas academic excursions for adults.

Arteaga experienced booked past journeys for them, prosecutors stated, and the couple trusted him when he explained the Road Scholar vacation would cost about $100,000 but he could get a discounted rate of $60,000. According to court filings, Arteaga explained to them to pay him $20,000 in five test payments and wire the remaining $40,000.

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A Texas man accused of scamming good friends and others with sham discount vacation bookings was sentenced to jail in Florida and ordered to forfeit over $800,000. Business Wire for AP

P.C. and A.C. wired him the funds from their monetary adviser but quickly listened to from other pals that Arteaga experienced taken their funds without having booking the journeys, prosecutors mentioned.

Street Scholar had no history of the couple’s scheduling when they referred to as, according to the governing administration, and the nonprofit said it did not offer discounts like the 1 Arteaga claimed he could get.

When the couple confronted Arteaga, he reportedly reported he delayed booking the vacation out of problem for P.C.’s wellbeing.

Prosecutors stated P.C. and Arteaga’s wife had “bonded while heading via remedy for the very same wellness issue.” But the couple had not mentioned everything about delaying the journey mainly because of P.C.’s health, which the govt named a “ruse” by Arteaga to address his tracks.

Arteaga is accused of using the revenue he bought from the couple to e-book trips for other victims, refund his victims or pay for trips for himself.

The alleged scheme lasted until January 2019 and Arteaga was charged in October 2021. Courtroom files clearly show he was arrested in November and introduced on a $10,000 bond.

Arteaga waived his right to an indictment and pleaded guilty to just one rely of wire fraud all around the very same time.

In his sentencing memorandum, Arteaga’s law firm explained he faced disappointment and rebuke from his grownup small children and parents when he informed them what transpired. His marriage to his significant school sweetheart has also experienced, his legal professional mentioned.

Arteaga has snooze apnea, bronchial asthma, diabetic issues, hypertension and heart troubles that prompted congestive heart failure and resulted in him needing a pacemaker, in accordance to sentencing documents. Arteaga’s law firm pointed to his health difficulties and quite a few other things, like his mental wellness and deficiency of felony background, in a bid for leniency.

He asked for a prison sentence of one working day adopted by a period of home detention.

The recommended federal sentencing tips offered Arteaga’s heritage and qualities, even so, fell concerning 33 and 41 months, court documents point out.

In issuing a 36-thirty day period sentence for Arteaga, the decide advised he serve his time at a facility near to household in Houston. Arteaga was purchased to surrender right before 11:15 a.m. on April 20 and will be on supervised release for a few yrs right after he will get out.

Profile Image of Hayley Fowler

Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer masking breaking and authentic-time information across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York Town ahead of joining the Observer in 2019.



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