travel agent sentenced to prison for fraud on customers, cruise lines and payment processors | USAO-MDFL

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Tampa, Fla. – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew today sentenced Diana M. Hopkins (48, Wimauma) to 37 months in federal prison for wire fraud, access device fraud and money laundering . As part of her sentence, the Court also issued an order of forfeiture in the amount of $115,995.67, the proceeds of the alleged criminal conduct, and ordered her to pay restitution in the amount of $432 $938.64. Hopkins had pleaded guilty on April 12, 2022.

According to court documents, Hopkins owned and operated Hopkins Travel Services LLC (“HTS”) in Wimauma, Florida. From April 2017 to approximately September 2019, Hopkins used HTS to engage in wire fraud and access device fraud and to conduct illegal monetary transactions. Specifically, Hopkins has made false and fraudulent misrepresentations by soliciting customers through Facebook, a website (www.htsvacationdeals.com) and other means, to purchase cruise packages through HTS at discounted prices and/or “buy one, get one” deals that were far below what the cruise lines were actually offering and the amounts HTS had to pay or would ultimately pay for customer cruises. Hopkins has made additional misrepresentations by offering customers additional discounts and/or additional travel amenities to induce them to make payments for cruise package reservations and related travel arrangements in full and well before the dates of customer cruise.

Hopkins tricked some customers into providing credit card information ostensibly to pay for their cruise package reservations and related travel arrangements, then used the credit card information to make Ponzi-style payments on the bookings of other customers through cruise line booking portals. , without the knowledge or consent of customers. In fact, when Hopkins entered credit card information into cruise line booking portals, it changed the names associated with certain credit card information so that said names matched the names on cruise package reservations. to which it applied the payments.

Hopkins got other customers to make payments through Stripe, Square, PayPal and other electronic payment services, and she had the payments wired to bank accounts she controlled. Next, Hopkins used the proceeds from some customers’ electronic payments to make Ponzi-like payments on other customers’ bookings through cruise line booking portals, without the customers’ knowledge or consent.

In addition, Hopkins used a portion of its customers’ payments made for cruise package reservations and related travel arrangements to pay for personal and family expenses, including groceries, restaurants, retail purchases, and food. other household goods and services, and otherwise for personal enrichment. These expenses included, but were not limited to, cruises for family members, jewelry, and a 2019 Dodge Ram 1500.

In total, Hopkins’ offenses resulted in financial losses to the victims amounting to approximately $461,823.38. She personally received at least $91,495.67 in fraudulent proceeds and she used an additional $24,500 in fraudulent proceeds towards the purchase of the 2019 Dodge Ram.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachelle DesVaux Bedke.

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