N.Y.-based tour operator arrested for third time on fraud charges

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Investigators of the Nassau County District Attorneys office arrested Jerry Cummings, aka Andrew Cummings, operator of Hempstead, N.Y.-based Sunshine Vacations and Celebrity Travel, on grand larceny in the third and fourth degrees and scheme to defraud, according to a statement from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

According to Rice, We believe this defendant is responsible for the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from vacationers, travel agencies and credit card companies. His elaborate cons have left people without their vacations and many times stranded or fearing for their safety in foreign countries.

According to reports, most of the accusations follow a similar pattern of people booking and paying for trips and finding upon arrival at the destinations that their payments never made it to the hotels, transfer services, airlines or other service providers.

In one charge in the complaint, Cummings is accused of defrauding American Express out of $35,000 by opening corporate accounts under various names and running up charges that were never paid, including more than $25,000 in charges from Celebrity Travel to Sunshine Vacations, two of his business names.

Prior to his arrest on June 27, Cummings was free on $10,000 bail after a May 10 arrest on charges that he defrauded 50 clients of Tecumseh, Ontario-based Magic Carpet Travel out of $40,000 worth of air fare and hotel reservations.

He had recently opened a new business called Destinations Unlimited about 10 miles from his previous location, according to Diane Peress, the bureau chief of Economic Crimes of the Nassau Country District Attorneys office.

Cummings has been arrested before on similar charges, but has never been convicted. In April 2005 he was arrested on charges of defrauding American Express out of $182,000, based on cumulative chargebacks from customers who claimed not to have received their travel arrangements from Sunshine Vacations. The charges were dismissed, according to Peress, but a number of incidents remain under investigation by the Nassau County D.A.s office.

His most-recent arrest followed an intensive investigation into a large number of incidents involving Cummings reported by travel agents, culminating in the issuance of a search warrant for Cummings current place of business in Hempstead, N.Y.

By documenting each problem we can establish that it is not possible that that many people didnt have hotel rooms, documents, air fare, etc. by accident, said Peress. Theres a cumulative effect. The old dog-ate-my-homework excuse isnt working anymore.

Efforts by TravelWeekly.com to reach Cummings lawyer were unsuccessful.

The Nassau County District Attorneys office is asking anyone with information about similar or related incidents with Jerry Cummings or Sunshine Vacations/Celebrity Travel since June 2004 to contact Justin Heiferman, assistant district attorney, by telephone at (516) 571-2149 or by e-mail at [email protected].

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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