Travel Agent Charged with Stealing $272,500 from Fort Smith Southside High School Band
FORT SMITH, AR—Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Calliope “Ope” Rocky Saaga, 40, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, appeared today in United States Magistrate Court for arraignment before United States Magistrate Judge James Marschewski on a three-count indictment for wire fraud accusing Saaga of stealing $272,500 from the Southside High School band. Saaga was indicted by a federal grand jury on those charges on May 7, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Eldridge commented, “As alleged, this case involves defrauding high school students and their parents out of money set aside to take a once-in-a-lifetime band trip. It is unfathomable that someone would take money from students seeking to do something worthwhile—in this case travel to perform as part of the Southside High School Band. We will continue to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
“This malicious scheme not only affected Southside High School but innocent students and parents as well,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge David Resch. “We appreciate our team in their efforts to aggressively investigate this case.”
As alleged in the indictment, in August 2011, Saaga was doing business through his companies, Performing Hawaii Tours LLC and Present America Tours LLC, when he contracted with the Southside High School Band in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to provide travel arrangements for a 2012 trip to Hawaii. The Southside High School Band wired him three payments between September 2011 and February 2012. Instead of arranging the trip, Saaga converted the money for his personal use, and the band trip to Hawaii was subsequently canceled due to a lack of funds. The scheme resulted in defrauding the Fort Smith Southside Band, students, and parents of approximately $272,500.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violations. The sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum of 20 years for each count in this case and in most cases will be less than the maximum.
In a separate case, Saaga was indicted on May 7, 2014, and charged with 12 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Missouri, 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.
This case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Mark Webb is prosecuting the case for the United States.
The charges in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless or until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.