What seemed to be a great deal ended up being a giant farse.
At least two dozen people tell Telemundo 44 they were scammed by a travel agency in Hyattsville, Maryland, that promised them airline tickets to Central America and Mexico at low costs.
Police in Prince George's County are now looking for the accused travel agent.
According to the victims, the company Azteka Travel & Services LLC, located on Annapolis Road in Prince George’s County, advertised through its social media accounts and other ads affordable flights to various destinations om Latin America, including places like El Salvador, from prices as low as $355.
Interested buyers would contact the company and, after receiving payment through cash or credit card, an agency employee would say she would take care of getting the tickets with the airline.
But the victims say that it was all a lie; the travel bookings were never made. When clients tried to contact the agency to secure their bookings or request a refund, they never got a response.
Many of the people affected say they realized the arrangements were fraudulent only days before their supposed trips; others said they were stranded in Guatemala, El Salvador or Mexico, without a way to return to the United States.
“This lady does not know all the harm she is doing to us,” Maria Lucia Martinez, one of the people scammed, said in an exclusive interview with Telemundo 44. “She does not know [what she has done] because in order to make some money, I did not have a Christmas, I did not have a New Year [celebration].”
Several victims opened complaints against the accused scammer, identified as Lorena Balbuena-Aguilar, who went by the name Ana Maria, according to the victims.
An arrest warrant was issued for Balbuena-Aguilar on Jan. 26, but she has not been detained yet.
The victims claim that they lost thousands of dollars, according to court documents. On one occasion, Balbuena-Aguilar is accused of using a client’s credit card to purchase tickets for other people, stealing more than $6,000. On another occasion, Balbuena-Aguilar apparently lied to a client, telling them that their flight had been cancelled because of bad weather, forcing them to purchase another trip.
Telemundo 44 has received dozens of calls from people reporting similar experiences.
“This is fraud that has been done to us. And it is tough, the way the situation we are going through is now” Marlon Guevara, another of the victims, said. “With the colder weather, work slows down, and it is harder to make money.”
If you believe you have been a victim in this kind of fraud, contact Prince George’s County police to file a complaint. You can also contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General by emailing email@example.com or calling 301-386-6200.