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Tuesday, September 30, 2014         

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ...


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Plane ticket scam targeting Hilo girls team still unresolved


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Question: What ever happened to the scammers who cheated a Hilo girls' basketball team in June out of thousands of dollars for what they thought were airline tickets to Las Vegas?

Answer: Hilo police investigated three reported cases involving the sale of fake ticket vouchers purportedly for cheap Hawaiian Airlines tickets to Las Vegas.

Victims included the Keaukaha Lady Ballahs, a girls basketball club, which paid $9,000 for tickets in June for team members and their families to attend their first mainland tournament in Las Vegas. The team raised money to buy airline tickets and participated in the July tournament.

Police opened three second-degree theft cases, but no one has been arrested or charged. The cases have been turned over to prosecutors.

Prosecutors are waiting for more evidence. "We are hoping other victims will come forward," Deputy Prosecutor Jack Matsukawa said.

Hawaiian Airlines did its own investigation and turned over its findings to the FBI, a company spokesman said.

FBI spokesman Tom Simon said no one has been charged in the matter, but said he could not discuss any details.

Meanwhile, Panda Travel in Honolulu reported to Honolulu police that the company lost a substantial sum of money after stolen credit cards were used to buy several airline tickets from websites the company uses. The company also received complaints from Big Island residents who said they had bought tickets from at least four individuals who allegedly sold them bogus travel vouchers.

A Panda employee said the way the scam apparently worked was the traveler would pay someone in advance for the trip, but the trip would not be booked until a day or two before the flight using a stolen credit card number. The ticket would be issued, and the person would take the trip usually with no problems. The card would be reported stolen, but by then the trip had already been taken.

The scam backfired when large groups traveled together, and tickets could not be bought at the last minute.

Three individuals involved with the voucher sales told the Star-Advertiser they were victims themselves and not guilty of any wrongdoing. They said they had told Hawaiian Airlines everything about their involvement.

A Big Island woman and her son admitted to selling the vouchers, but pointed to a Las Vegas woman who acted as the travel agent. They turned over money from customers to her, and received free trips in exchange. They said the Las Vegas woman actually booked the flights.

The Las Vegas woman blamed her husband, who lives in Senegal, and denied knowing the credit card numbers he allegedly provided to book the flights were stolen.

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This update was written by Leila Fujimori. Suggest a topic for "Whatever Happened To ..." by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail cityeditors@staradvertiser.com.






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