Updated Wednesday, April 22, 9:57 a.m.
A Jackson Heights travel agency owner is accused of stealing relaxing getaways and loads of cash from customers, some of whom she left stranded at the airport with canceled tickets, prosecutors said.
Adriana Olivar-Munoz, 46, a Woodside resident, and owner and operator of Expertravel Travel Agency on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights was arraigned Tuesday on a 20-count indictment charging her with grand larceny, identity theft, falsifying business records, scheme to defraud and petit larceny, according to the district attorney’s office.
Olivar-Munoz allegedly defrauded at least 10 victims — including two wholesale travel agencies, Costmar Travel Agency and Skylink — out of more than $80,000 between Dec. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2014.
Reportedly, she used her customers’ credit cards without their permission to purchase tickets for other customers or to buy them tickets, but cancelled them later, District Attorney Richard Brown said. Olivar-Munoz would allegedly give them an itinerary confirmation, but the customers would only later learn — sometimes as they traveled home — that their tickets had been canceled due to non-payment.
According to the district attorney, one of her fraud victims — a family who was trying to fly from LaGuardia to Miami on New Year’s Eve 2014 — did not have the money to purchase more tickets when they found out the ones in their confirmation had never been bought.
Olivar-Munoz was arrested in September 2014 after two customers, for whom she had arranged the purchase of airline tickets to Colombia a few months earlier, noticed unauthorized charges on their credit card billing statements for airline tickets totaling about $1,300.
Following the September 2014 arrest, the district attorney’s office received more complaints from customers about the agency’s fraud.
“The defendant is accused of turning people’s dream vacations into living nightmares. In some cases, victims allegedly flew to their destinations only to find that the defendant never purchased a return flight for them. The defendant’s alleged crimes are particularly egregious in that many of the victims were Spanish-speaking individuals who trusted the defendant because she was from Colombia and spoke Spanish,” Brown said.
Olivar-Munoz, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, was held on $5,000 bail. She is due back in court on Thursday.
Anyone may have been a victim or knows someone who may have been a victim of the travel agency’s fraud is asked to contact the Queens District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau at 718-286-6673.