Breaking News

Travel agent accused of fraud agrees to pay $500k in restitution

BALTIMORE — A Florida travel agent with ties to Baltimore is now struggling with federal prices.

In 2019, WMAR-2 Information Mallory Sofastaii initially claimed federal authorities were investigating Diana Hopkins of Florida-based Hopkins Travel Expert services.

Relevant: Federal authorities investigating cruise journey company

Lots of buyers in the Baltimore-space experienced purchased steeply discounted cruise deals from Hopkins then uncovered their programs were suddenly canceled following she was suspected of committing credit score card fraud.

More than two years later, the U.S. Attorney’s Workplace of the Center District of Florida (USAOMDFL) has filed rates versus Hopkins.

She’s accused of committing wire fraud, obtain gadget fraud, and unlawful financial transaction in link with her business functions between April 2017 and September 2019.

According to the assertion of costs submitted on March 4, Hopkins falsely and fraudulently misrepresented travel bargains and made “Ponzi-fashion payments” on other clients’ reservations without having any of the clients’ expertise or consent.

Prospects despatched Sofastaii copies of their trip cancellation invoices. In a single case in point, the buyer was told a trip for two value $2,300, but the invoice reveals it totaled $7,000. Of the 12 payment cards employed to ebook this reservation, only a few belonged to the consumer.

“It was a excursion of a life time and none of us got to go,” reported Karen Regan, who arranged a excursion to Greece with Hopkins Vacation Services for herself and 60 others in the Dundalk, Essex, and Pasadena places.

A several months soon after scheduling ‘buy a person, get one free’ offers, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) canceled the trips after accusing Hopkins of committing credit card fraud.

In accordance to the USAOMDFL, the monetary losses to victims totaled much more than $508,000.

Hopkins is also accused of working with a portion of her clients’ payments for own costs which include groceries, restaurants, jewellery, retail browsing, cruises for loved ones customers, and a 2019 Dodge Ram 1500.

“We acquired blessed. All of my practically 60 men and women bought our income again [from NCL],but we nevertheless want to see her charged and see her fork out for what she did to all of us,” Regan reported.

Hopkins does not dispute the government’s circumstance.

She signed a guilty plea agreement that necessitates her to make entire restitution in the amount of $508,883.78 to the victims in this case.

Her legal professional sent WMAR-2 Information this assertion:

“My shopper sincerely apologizes for any damage she induced any of her victims. She has worked extremely hard to procedure refunds for quite a few of her consumers and will proceed to do so. She entered her responsible plea for the reason that she is responsible. She accepts whole duty for her steps.”
– Mark J. O’Brien, lawyer symbolizing Hopkins

“Some people have gotten their income back again from combating their cards, a great deal of people are however out hundreds of pounds. It is definitely sad,” claimed Regan.

Hopkins has submitted for bankruptcy in the past, but legal guidelines avoid her from discharging restitution if she were to file once again in the potential.

Browse Far more: Travel agent suspected of fraud documents for bankruptcy

Her next court docket day is on April 12 in Tampa in which she’s envisioned to enter into a guilty plea. Sentencing is set to transpire 90 times following the listening to.

Hopkins continue to faces up to 40 several years in jail, nonetheless, her sentence will be centered on particular recommendations and could involve downward adjustments for acceptance of accountability.

The USAOMDFL declined to comment and claimed the number of victims involved in this scenario is not available at this time.

Anyone who hasn’t but come forward is encouraged to make contact with the FBI Tampa discipline workplace at (813) 253-1000.

In Maryland, you will find no license or certification demanded to be a travel agent, which is why it’s critical for consumers to exploration who they’re operating with.

Sarah Kline, president of Time for Travel Ltd. in Davidsonville, Md., offered these suggestions for acquiring a journey agent you can trust.

Examine Extra: Getting a journey agent who can deliver your dream holiday