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 expenses.

In 2019, WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii initial documented federal authorities were investigating Diana Hopkins of Florida-dependent Hopkins Journey Expert services.

Linked: Federal authorities investigating cruise journey company

Many customers in the Baltimore-region had bought steeply discounted cruise packages from Hopkins then discovered their plans have been abruptly canceled following she was suspected of committing credit card fraud.

More than two a long time later on, the U.S. Attorney’s Business of the Middle District of Florida (USAOMDFL) has filed costs from Hopkins.

She’s accused of committing wire fraud, obtain unit fraud, and illegal financial transaction in relationship with her business operations between April 2017 and September 2019.

In accordance to the statement of expenses submitted on March 4, Hopkins falsely and fraudulently misrepresented journey deals and created “Ponzi-design payments” on other clients’ reservations without any of the clients’ knowledge or consent.

Shoppers despatched Sofastaii copies of their trip cancellation invoices. In a single illustration, the customer was told a journey for two cost $2,300, but the bill exhibits it totaled $7,000. Of the 12 payment playing cards utilised to guide this reservation, only 3 belonged to the buyer.

“It was a excursion of a life time and none of us got to go,” claimed Karen Regan, who structured a excursion to Greece with Hopkins Journey Companies for herself and 60 others in the Dundalk, Essex, and Pasadena spots.

A couple of months immediately after scheduling ‘buy one, get 1 free’ offers, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) canceled the trips right after accusing Hopkins of committing credit card fraud.

According to the USAOMDFL, the money losses to victims totaled a lot more than $508,000.

Hopkins is also accused of working with a part of her clients’ payments for private charges which include groceries, dining places, jewellery, retail buying, cruises for loved ones associates, and a 2019 Dodge Ram 1500.

“We received fortunate. All of my pretty much 60 folks acquired our revenue again [from NCL],but we even now want to see her billed and see her fork out for what she did to all of us,” Regan mentioned.

Hopkins does not dispute the government’s situation.

She signed a guilty plea arrangement that calls for her to make total restitution in the amount of money of $508,883.78 to the victims in this scenario.

Her attorney despatched WMAR-2 News this statement:

“My customer sincerely apologizes for any damage she induced any of her victims. She has worked incredibly tricky to course of action refunds for many of her clientele and will continue to do so. She entered her guilty plea for the reason that she is responsible. She accepts whole accountability for her steps.”
– Mark J. O’Brien, legal professional symbolizing Hopkins

“Some persons have gotten their revenue again from preventing their cards, a lot of folks are nevertheless out thousands of dollars. It’s really sad,” reported Regan.

Hopkins has filed for individual bankruptcy in the past, but regulations avert her from discharging restitution if she have been to file once more in the upcoming.

Study More: Journey agent suspected of fraud data files for personal bankruptcy

Her subsequent court day is on April 12 in Tampa in which she’s envisioned to enter into a guilty plea. Sentencing is established to come about 90 times following the listening to.

Hopkins nonetheless faces up to 40 several years in jail, nonetheless, her sentence will be dependent on certain recommendations and could contain downward changes for acceptance of obligation.

The USAOMDFL declined to remark and said the number of victims included in this case isn’t available at this time.

Anyone who has not nonetheless occur ahead is inspired to get in touch with the FBI Tampa field workplace at (813) 253-1000.

In Maryland, you can find no license or certification essential to be a travel agent, which is why it’s critical for individuals to study who they’re working with.

Sarah Kline, president of Time for Travel Ltd. in Davidsonville, Md., provided these recommendations for getting a vacation agent you can rely on.

Go through Far more: Locating a journey agent who can provide your desire trip

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