A Texas travel agency owner ripped off at least $150,000 from high school students by booking their group graduation trips but secretly canceled the reservations and pocketed the refunds.
According to the Department of Justice, George Alberto Barragan, 46, pleaded guilty to financial fraud while negotiating with the young customers through his various agencies, which included EB Worldwide, Exhibit Tours and Senior Grad Trips.
Between May 2015 and June 2018, at least six different high school student groups paid Barragan “by check or through an online payment portal to book the trips for them,” according to the DOJ. “Once in possession of victims’ funds, Barragan would make reservations and provide confirmations and itineraries to victims purporting to show that desired travel arrangements had been made.”
Before the scheduled vacations, however, Barragan canceled reservations without telling the students and had the refunds deposited into his bank account.
“In fact,” the DOJ noted, “he kept communicating with them after he canceled their trips, informing them that their travel was still taking place.”
At least twice, federal officials said, student groups who believed they were set to travel to Disneyland and other destinations showed up at a designated time and location only to discover their trips had been canceled.
In total, students lost at least around $150,000 because of Barragan’s scheme, according to the DOJ.
Currently free on bond, Barragan will be sentenced in May and faces up to 20 years in federal prison for mail fraud and up to two years for aggravated identity theft.