Former travel agent sentenced to prison for stealing $500,000 from customers

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TAMPA, Fla. — A former Tampa Bay-area travel agent who pleaded guilty to defrauding hundreds of people out of more than half a million dollars is heading to federal prison.

A judge ordered Diana Hopkins to spend three years behind bars and repay her victims $432,000

Hopkins asked the court to serve his sentence at Coleman Federal Prison, about an hour north of Tampa. She is expected to surrender and begin serving her sentence in September.

Hopkins wept as he apologized in court Monday for defrauding 320 clients out of half a million dollars. Earlier this year, federal prosecutors accused the former travel company of peddling high-end Norwegian Mediterranean cruise packages to clients, taking the money for the trips, then having it spent on itself.

Hopkins, who lives in Wimauma, sold the fantasy to Karen Regan and 60 of her closest friends. Regan told ABC Action News it was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, but they never got to go.

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In March, Hopkins pleaded guilty to fraud charges. In a court filing, the government said the victims’ financial losses amounted to $508,000. Investigators accused Hopkins of using the money to pay for restaurant meals, jewelry, shopping and cruises for family members, as well as the purchase of a 2019 Dodge Ram.

“She deserves to go to jail. She, she didn’t just scam people, hundreds of people, she scammed Norwegian (Cruise Line),” Regan said.

Hopkins’ attorney, Mark O’Brien, told ABC Action News that his client takes full responsibility for her actions.

“These are people who saved money to go on vacation, and Ms. Hopkins broke that trust,” he said. “And that’s why she accepted responsibility when she pleaded guilty and accepted her prison sentence.”

Prosecutors said: “Ms. Hopkins’ criminal activity was extensive and spanned a period of more than two years. This involved the use of social media and other technologies, including several payment processing services.

His lawyer blamed his actions on a gambling addiction and said it was not pure greed.

“She used this money inappropriately, and she feels tremendous regret and sadness, and is taking steps to get help for her gambling addiction,” O’Brien said.

He asked the judge to deviate downward from the sentencing guidelines. In a court filing, O’Brien said his client “…continued to pay restitution to his victims until the time of his arrest.” O’Brien estimates that Hopkins repaid about $80,000 of the $508,000 owed to the victims.

Karen Regan and her band got their money back after contacting Norwegian and filing credit card disputes. Now, many years later, other victims continue to wait.

Court documents revealed that Hopkins is a mother and adoptive parent of a total of 12 children. His conviction led DCF to revoke his license and the state removed all but his two adopted children from the Wimauma home.

Karen Regan feels bad for the children involved, but said Hopkins deserved to go to jail for robbing more than 300 people.

“She can sit there and think about what she did to all those people.”

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