Travel Agent scams thousands by selling fake vouchers

Avoiding the hustle is part of travel. You look for the good deals, and inspect the great deals with much scrutiny, hoping for it to shake out in the end. From $10 easyjet flights from London-Gatwick to free cab rides in Bangkok, anyone that has done either realizes rather quickly the high price of low cost. Whether it be wasting an afternoon at tourist traps or corralled like cattle onto a perpetually late and uncomfortably full flight, part of travel is finding the balance between value and comfort.

A woman in New Jersey provided neither value nor comfort as she executed a low rent Ponzi scheme peddling fraudulent Continental Airlines travel vouchers. Apparently, this woman – travel agent Victoria Scardingo, sold over 2000 fake travel vouchers for between $500 and $600 to well meaning rubes that assumed they were buying round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world. Instead of the bargain of the century, the buyers received a thorough fleecing. The vouchers were completely worthless.So what did she do with the money? According to CNN, Victoria had a penchant for Louis Vuitton and Coach bags, spending well over $15,000 at the two stores. She also purchased over half a million dollars in flights to keep the scheme running by distributing real tickets to the early adopters. In a Ponzi scheme, those that invest earliest are generally compensated with value gathered by later adopters. Eventually, keeping the scam alive was too costly, collapsing under the weight of customer demand.

“Now the only trip she will be taking is to federal prison,” says Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Scardingo faces up to 20 years in the slammer and the cool million she deposited into her bank account is worth no more than one of her $500 travel vouchers.

flickr image via Magnus Bråth