California Attorney General Edmund Brown Jr. announced the arrest of an Orange County travel agent for selling more than $160,000 in “bogus travel packages.” These travel packages were aimed at senior citizens who wanted to travel to Cuba for cultural and religious purposes.
Ralph Adam Rendon, of Santa Ana was arrested on 78 felony counts, including fraud, embezzlement, grand theft, misappropriation of consumer funds and trust account violations. Mr. Rendon is alleged to have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting travelers. Currently, Mr. Rendon is out of custody having posted $170,000 bail.
The travel packages were designed to attract Greek Orthodox and Jewish Americans with members of their faith in Cuba. Mr. Rendon's travel agency, “USA to Cuba” was advertised in religious magazines targeting religious travelers. When interested travels contacted Mr. Rendon's travel agency he directed them to send $1,000 to “USA/AAE Scholarship Foundation.” After the travels deposited the $1,000 he asked them to deposit an additional $2,850 and then cancelled the trips saying the U.S. Treasury Department had blocked travel to Cuba, which was not true.
Orange County, California law enforcement investigators determined that Rendon sold fake trips to at least 30 elderly travelers from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Utah. When travels attempted to get refunds, Mr. Rendon ignored all calls and demands.
Records show Mr. Rendon used the money to pay his rent, lease a new Mercedes, and hire an attorney. Brown charged Rendon with 78 felony counts, including grand theft, embezzlement, mishandling consumer funds and trust account violations. Mr. Rendon is being charged in Orange County Superior Court and is scheduled to be arraigned in May, 2008 in Santa Ana.