CIBOLO — Authorities said a Cibolo man faces a federal indictment unsealed this week claiming that he bilked high school student groups out of about $160,000 in a travel agent scheme he carried on for about three years.
The indictment charges 45-year-old George Alberto Barragan with three counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and a single count of aggravated identity theft. The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury, was unsealed Tuesday.
“According to the indictment, Barragan perpetrated his scheme on no less than six different high school student groups between May 2015 and June 2018, resulting in an approximate total loss of $160,000,” read a written statement released Tuesday from the United States Attorney’s office in San Antonio.
Barragan owned and operated several travel agencies that he allegedly used in the scam, according to the news release. Three of those companies are EB Worldwide, Exhibit Tours and Senior Grad Trips.
According to the release, Barragan was the only person in charge of negotiating and contracting with customers. It also reads that he booked and arranged travel accommodations for large groups.
The groups would pay him by check or online payment portal, the release read. They would either pay in full up front or provide a deposit with a deadline by which payment was needed to be complete, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office release.
“Once in possession of victims’ funds, Barragan would make reservations and provide confirmations and itineraries to victims purporting to show that desired travel arrangements had been arranged,” according to the statement. “Prior to travel, Barragan would cancel reservations and, thus, receive a refund of the victims’ monies into an account he controlled. Barragan never notified his victims of the cancellations.”
He would continue the ruse after canceling victims’ trips so that they believed their reservations were intact, the news release read. At least twice, large groups of students arrived at their destinations before learning that their trips had been canceled.
“The indictment also specifically alleges that in April 2018, Barragan illegally used a credit card number and personal information provided by a customer to make a $6,000 payment for a set of hotel rooms in San Diego for an unrelated client,” the news statement read.
Barragan appeared in a federal court Tuesday on the indictment and was released on bond following the hearing, the news statement said. If convicted, he could face up to a mandatory two years in federal prison for aggravated identity theft and up to 20 years in a federal prison on each of the other charges.