Travel Agent Pleads Guilty in $360,000 Fraud Scheme
SPRINGFIELD, MO—Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a travel agent pleaded guilty in federal court today for stealing $360,000 from the Willard High School Band Boosters, which forced the cancellation of a trip to Hawaii for more than 300 students and chaperones.
Calliope R. Saaga, also known as “Ope,” 40, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to one count of wire fraud.
Saaga, doing business as Present America Tours, LLC, contracted with the Willard High School Band Boosters in January 2011 to provide travel arrangements for a June 2012 band trip to Hawaii. Saaga was responsible for booking airfare, lodging, transportation, meals, tours, and travel insurance for more than 300 students and chaperones. The Willard High School Band Boosters wired 12 payments of $30,000 each to Saaga between February 2011 and January 2012.
Saaga booked no reservations as required in the contract. Instead, as he received wire transfers from the band boosters, Saaga used the funds to finance his personal lifestyle, including at least 47 days spent gambling in Las Vegas, Nev.
As a result of Saaga’s diversion of funds, the Willard High School band trip was cancelled and the Willard High School Band Boosters suffered a loss of $360,000.
While he was spending the money of the Willard High School Band Boosters to finance his personal lifestyle, Saaga transmitted e-mails about details of the trip to the Willard High School director of bands, which lulled the band boosters into believing that their trip to Hawaii was on schedule.
Under federal statutes, Saaga is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abram McGull II. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the FBI and the Willard, Mo., Police Department.