Agent arrested, charged in ticketing scheme


JAMAICA, N.Y. - An independent travel agent, who more recently was a Transportation Security Administration screener, was arrested and charged with fraud in connection with a ticketing scheme that produced more than $50,000 in debit memos for her host agency.

The former independent contractor is Laura Chico-Moreira, 37, who specialized in selling travel to Latin America for an agency here, Florida's Best Marketing Associates, owned by Maurice Vallejo.

She is being held pending arraignment.

According to the charges spelled out for the Queens County criminal court, the agent sold "full-fare" air tickets to adults but reported and paid for them as infant fares.

According to the court papers, which are based in large measure on testimony from Vallejo, the agency had installed a GDS terminal in Chico-Moreira's office, where she booked the tickets, which were then printed at the host agency's location.

The defendant retrieved tickets booked under her business name, XLJE Tours, for distribution to clients, the papers say.

According to the court documents, the contractor booked more than 75 phony infant-fare tickets between Dec. 2, 2002 and June 15, 2003, and Grupo Taca was the primary victim. However, Vallejo told the district attorney's office that the airline is holding his agency responsible. He said he received debit memos from Grupo Taca totaling more than $54,000.

A call to the carrier from one client who asked to change her reservation triggered an audit of the agency by Grupo Taca and the subsequent criminal investigation. Until then, no client or airline agent handling check-in had discovered the inappropriate fare basis.

Chico-Moreira is charged with grand larceny, scheming to defraud and falsify business records (of Grupo Taca) as well as grand larceny for collecting $4,425 in unemployment benefits during the time she was an independent agent.

If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in jail.

Grupo Taca declined comment, and Vallejo refused to talk to Travel Weekly.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].


From Our Partners

2021 Quebec Webinar
Bonjour Québec: It’s Vibrant Cities and Culture
Watch Now
USTOA 2021 horizontal
USTOA 2021
Read More
2021 Outlook Webinar
Outlook 2021
Watch Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI