Texas travel agent scammed Florida clients with bogus trips

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Juan Carlos Arteaga promised his shoppers steep special discounts on excursions though holding himself out as a travel agent in northeast Florida, in accordance to federal prosecutors.

But the travel arrangements were rarely — if at any time — booked. As a substitute, the government explained, Arteaga pocketed the funds to pay out for living expenditures or deal with the cost of scheduling other people’s holidays in an effort and hard work to stave off suspicion. He was in the end accused of thieving extra than $800,000 from clients around 10 months in 2018 and 2019.

A federal choose sentenced Arteaga on April 20 to a few years in federal jail — a significantly cry from the one day in jail his protection legal professional experienced asked for.

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

Arteaga, who was taken into custody soon soon after his sentencing listening to in the Middle District of Florida, could not be achieved for remark. His protection lawyer did not right away react to McClatchy News’ request for remark on April 22.

Arteaga is 58 and currently life in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston. His lawyer claimed in sentencing files that he has expressed “extreme remorse” about what took place.

In accordance to the govt, Arteaga was dwelling in Jacksonville, Florida, in March 2018 when he commenced advertising “heavily discounted travel preparations for both of those domestic and global travel.” Prosecutors reported he was not a certified travel agent and was running as a “de facto” agent.

Arteaga’s shoppers integrated his friends, enterprise contacts, acquaintances and their referrals who thought he could get them good bargains on flights, resort rooms and tickets to amusement parks, according to court docket paperwork.

Prosecutors claimed Arteaga applied some of the dollars to cover the price of journey arrangements for other consumers — a tactic that “delayed discovery of the scheme” given that it appeared as even though he was following by way of on his guarantees. He also employed the income to pay out his house loan, get out quick-expression loans, shell out credit score card and cable charges, obtain groceries and cover the value of nursing home costs, the governing administration mentioned.

According to court docket filings, two of Arteaga’s victims ended up longtime close friends with whom he and his wife experienced formerly taken quite a few vacations with each other.

The pair, recognized in courtroom files as P.C. and A.C., reportedly advised Arteaga in 2018 about their strategies to reserve a globe tour by personal aircraft with Highway Scholar, a nonprofit journey firm that programs instructional excursions for older people.

Arteaga had booked previous visits for them, prosecutors stated, and the couple reliable him when he stated the Road Scholar trip would price about $100,000 but he could get a discounted value of $60,000. In accordance to court filings, Arteaga informed them to shell out him $20,000 in five look at payments and wire the remaining $40,000.

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A Texas man accused of scamming good friends and other individuals with sham price cut journey bookings was sentenced to jail in Florida and purchased to forfeit around $800,000. Enterprise Wire for AP

P.C. and A.C. wired him the funds from their economic adviser but quickly listened to from other friends that Arteaga had taken their money devoid of booking the journeys, prosecutors said.

Road Scholar had no history of the couple’s scheduling when they termed, in accordance to the governing administration, and the nonprofit explained it did not provide discount rates like the 1 Arteaga claimed he could get.

When the few confronted Arteaga, he reportedly mentioned he delayed booking the excursion out of concern for P.C.’s overall health.

Prosecutors stated P.C. and Arteaga’s spouse experienced “bonded when heading via procedure for the very same wellbeing condition.” But the few experienced not explained just about anything about delaying the vacation for the reason that of P.C.’s health and fitness, which the federal government termed a “ruse” by Arteaga to deal with his tracks.

Arteaga is accused of employing the cash he obtained from the couple to ebook journeys for other victims, refund his victims or pay back for journeys for himself.

The alleged plan lasted until finally January 2019 and Arteaga was billed in October 2021. Court paperwork exhibit he was arrested in November and released on a $10,000 bond.

Arteaga waived his right to an indictment and pleaded guilty to one particular rely of wire fraud close to the same time.

In his sentencing memorandum, Arteaga’s attorney claimed he faced disappointment and rebuke from his adult little ones and parents when he informed them what transpired. His marriage to his large school sweetheart has also endured, his legal professional stated.

Arteaga has snooze apnea, bronchial asthma, diabetic issues, hypertension and heart issues that triggered congestive heart failure and resulted in him needing a pacemaker, in accordance to sentencing files. Arteaga’s lawyer pointed to his wellness issues and several other variables, including his psychological overall health and lack of felony heritage, in a bid for leniency.

He asked for a jail sentence of one particular working day followed by a interval of property detention.

The advised federal sentencing guidelines specified Arteaga’s history and features, even so, fell among 33 and 41 months, court documents condition.

In issuing a 36-month sentence for Arteaga, the judge recommended he serve his time at a facility close to dwelling in Houston. Arteaga was ordered to surrender prior to 11:15 a.m. on April 20 and will be on supervised launch for three decades just after he gets out.

Profile Image of Hayley Fowler

Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and actual-time information across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and beforehand labored as a authorized reporter in New York Metropolis before signing up for the Observer in 2019.



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