Owners of Pio Travel plead guilty to 26 felony charges

SALINAS, Calif. -- Travel agents Edward Pio and Kay Burtness pled guilty in Monterey County Superior Court here to 26 felony charges.

Most of the charges were connected with their operation of Pio Travel in Salinas from August 2002 to December 2004 during which they accepted money from clients but failed to provide the travel or refunds.

One charge of grand theft involved accepting money from Carnival Cruise Lines after saying the money would go to a nonprofit organization. The defendants also admitted to two charges of credit card fraud after making unauthorized charges on client cards.

The pair will be sentenced Feb. 9. They are obliged to make restitution of $400,000 to 646 victims. Depending on how well they meet their restitution obligations, they could serve jail time of anywhere from one year to 19 years.

Meanwhile, three other agents, accused of taking more than $50,000 from customers without delivering travel or refunds, are slated for a court hearing in San Francisco on Dec. 16. The three defendants are Iqbal (Paul), Gurdev (Debbie) and their son Manjinder (Manny) Randhawa, who operated the three-office M & K Travel, based in Fairfield, Calif.

The threesome was arrested Nov. 7. Paul Randhawa had been on the next days ballot for a Fairfield City Council post. He lost.

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

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI