-- 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.
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
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.
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.
conviction carries a maximum penalty of 16 months in
Pio and Burtness
both posted bail and, under a court order, cannot engage in selling
travel. An arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 12.
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
Travel, Global Music Exchange was a registered seller of
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
reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].