SALINAS, Calif. -- The owners of a travel agency here were arrested on felony charges after more than 200 of their customers who paid for trips were allegedly left with no reservations for cruises and tours and not provided refunds.

The Monterey County district attorneys office arrested Edward Pio and Kay Burtness, owners of Edward Pio Travel, Global Music Exchange, an agency that specialized in booking senior-citizen and student groups on band and music-related cruises and tours.

The agency owners were accepting reservations and money for cruises and tours and not depositing the money in a travel trust account, but instead using the money for their business operations, said Steve Holett, deputy district attorney.

Pio and Burtness took client money for vacations but did not make reservations, later telling clients that their cruises and tours had been canceled by the suppliers, Holett said.

Consumers are owed more than $300,000, he said.

The two agents were charged with seven counts of grand theft and violations of the California Seller-of-Travel Law, including failure to deposit money in a trust account and to refund client money.

Each felony conviction carries a maximum penalty of 16 months in jail.

Pio and Burtness both posted bail and, under a court order, cannot engage in selling travel. An arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 12.

California residents who lost money to the agency can file claims with the California Travel Consumer Restitution Fund, which is set up under the seller-of-travel law to provide refunds when registered California companies fail or cause financial harm to consumers.

Edward Pio Travel, Global Music Exchange was a registered seller of travel.

San Francisco travel attorney Alexander Anolik, who is a consultant to Burtness, said the agency had difficulties after the SARS scare because it had booked band-related tours to China that had to be canceled.

To contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].

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