December 3, 2022

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Unforgettable trip

Texas travel agent scammed Florida clients with bogus trips

Juan Carlos Arteaga promised his clients steep bargains on trips although keeping himself out as a journey agent in northeast Florida, according to federal prosecutors.

But the journey arrangements had been rarely — if ever — booked. In its place, the government claimed, Arteaga pocketed the money to pay for residing fees or deal with the expense of scheduling other people’s holidays in an effort and hard work to stave off suspicion. He was in the end accused of thieving more than $800,000 from purchasers above 10 months in 2018 and 2019.

A federal choose sentenced Arteaga on April 20 to 3 a long time in federal prison — a significantly cry from the a person working day in prison his defense attorney experienced requested.

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

Arteaga, who was taken into custody shortly after his sentencing listening to in the Middle District of Florida, could not be reached for remark. His protection attorney did not instantly reply to McClatchy News’ request for remark on April 22.

Arteaga is 58 and at the moment life in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston. His law firm claimed in sentencing paperwork that he has expressed “extreme remorse” about what took place.

According to the govt, Arteaga was residing in Jacksonville, Florida, in March 2018 when he commenced promotion “heavily discounted travel arrangements for the two domestic and intercontinental vacation.” Prosecutors stated he was not a licensed vacation agent and was operating as a “de facto” agent.

Arteaga’s purchasers involved his buddies, business enterprise contacts, acquaintances and their referrals who considered he could get them excellent deals on flights, resort rooms and tickets to amusement parks, according to court documents.

Prosecutors mentioned Arteaga utilized some of the income to cover the value of journey preparations for other clientele — a tactic that “delayed discovery of the scheme” since it appeared as while he was pursuing by on his promises. He also employed the cash to shell out his property finance loan, consider out short-phrase loans, pay credit score card and cable expenditures, get groceries and protect the expense of nursing dwelling charges, the federal government explained.

In accordance to courtroom filings, two of Arteaga’s victims have been longtime good friends with whom he and his wife experienced earlier taken several vacations alongside one another.

The few, determined in courtroom documents as P.C. and A.C., reportedly instructed Arteaga in 2018 about their plans to ebook a entire world tour by non-public plane with Street Scholar, a nonprofit journey company that options instructional outings for adults.

Arteaga experienced booked previous trips for them, prosecutors explained, and the couple reliable him when he explained the Highway Scholar vacation would value about $100,000 but he could get a discounted price of $60,000. In accordance to court filings, Arteaga explained to them to fork out him $20,000 in 5 look at payments and wire the remaining $40,000.

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A Texas male accused of scamming mates and other folks with sham lower price vacation bookings was sentenced to jail in Florida and requested to forfeit around $800,000. Business Wire for AP

P.C. and A.C. wired him the money from their monetary adviser but quickly listened to from other close friends that Arteaga experienced taken their dollars without scheduling the visits, prosecutors stated.

Street Scholar experienced no report of the couple’s booking when they identified as, in accordance to the federal government, and the nonprofit mentioned it did not offer you discounts like the a single Arteaga claimed he could get.

When the pair confronted Arteaga, he reportedly mentioned he delayed reserving the vacation out of worry for P.C.’s health and fitness.

Prosecutors reported P.C. and Arteaga’s wife experienced “bonded whilst going via remedy for the similar health issue.” But the pair had not stated just about anything about delaying the excursion because of P.C.’s overall health, which the federal government identified as a “ruse” by Arteaga to protect his tracks.

Arteaga is accused of using the dollars he received from the pair to guide visits for other victims, refund his victims or fork out for trips for himself.

The alleged plan lasted right until January 2019 and Arteaga was charged in October 2021. Court docket files demonstrate he was arrested in November and released on a $10,000 bond.

Arteaga waived his appropriate to an indictment and pleaded guilty to one particular depend of wire fraud all around the similar time.

In his sentencing memorandum, Arteaga’s lawyer said he faced disappointment and rebuke from his adult young children and dad and mom when he instructed them what happened. His marriage to his higher school sweetheart has also suffered, his legal professional claimed.

Arteaga has slumber apnea, bronchial asthma, diabetic issues, hypertension and coronary heart issues that brought on congestive coronary heart failure and resulted in him needing a pacemaker, in accordance to sentencing documents. Arteaga’s lawyer pointed to his wellness difficulties and numerous other aspects, which includes his mental wellness and lack of criminal historical past, in a bid for leniency.

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

The encouraged federal sentencing suggestions offered Arteaga’s background and properties, however, fell between 33 and 41 months, court docket files state.

In issuing a 36-month sentence for Arteaga, the decide suggested he provide his time at a facility close to house in Houston. Arteaga was purchased to surrender before 11:15 a.m. on April 20 and will be on supervised release for three years soon after he gets out.

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer masking breaking and real-time news throughout North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously labored as a authorized reporter in New York Metropolis right before joining the Observer in 2019.