March 30, 2015

Travel Agent Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison for Stealing More Than $272,000 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, age 40, of Eagle Mountain, Utah, was sentenced today to 63 months in prison and three years of supervised release on one count of Wire Fraud. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $272,235.89. This sentence is to run concurrent with the sentence imposed in the Western District of Missouri for a similar charge. The Honorable P.K. Holmes, III presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fort Smith. Saaga was indicted in May, 2014 by a federal grand jury for stealing the money from the South Southside High School Band.

U.S. Attorney Eldridge commented, “Approximately 260 students, parents, and chaperones, were denied a-once-in-a-lifetime band trip because of this defendant’s greed in using the funds he was entrusted to handle for his own personal use. The students were to travel to Hawaii to perform as part of the Southside High School Band. Justice has now been served on behalf of the students, and our office remains committed to aggressively prosecuting this type of fraudulent activity in Fort Smith and throughout all of the Western District of Arkansas.”

“Saaga is a thief who stole from hardworking citizens and their children,” stated Special Agent in Charge David T. Resch, FBI Little Rock. “The sentencing today serves as a reminder that our partners at the United States Attorney’s Office and the IRS will continue to work together to identify these predators and their victims.”

According to court records, 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 over $272,000.00. Saaga pleaded guilty to the Wire Fraud charge on October 16, 2014.

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 $360,000.00 from the Willard High School Band Boosters, which forced the cancellation of a trip to Hawaii for more than 300 students and chaperones. Saaga was sentenced on March 12, 2015 to five years in federal prison and ordered to pay $780,000.00 in restitution in that case.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Mark Webb prosecuted the case for the United States.