A woman who allegedly posed as a travel agent has been charged for scamming more than $35,000 out of her “clients” for trips that never materialised.
The court found she had tricked at least eight people out of $35,119 by promising 19 trips to India and Dubai that never went ahead between 2013 and 2017.
Leelavadi gave her customers travel advice, itineraries and quotes for the trips, asking for a $500 deposit.
She would then chase her clients for payments in the lead up to their trip, continuing to advise them on things like tours, currency exchange and insurance.
But when it came time for her clients to depart, she told them the trip would have to be cancelled or postponed because her mother had been hospitalised and refused when they asked for their plane tickets.
In one instance, she took $2,400 from an 82-year-old woman for a trip to India, Yahoo News reported.
During a brief stint at a licenced travel agency, Leelavadi promised to take care of her client during her trip to Kasi, despite the shop owner advising against it due to the woman’s health issues.
When the day came, Leelavadi reportedly said she would give the elderly woman a lift to the airport, but never showed up, claiming her mother was in hospital. However, she could not prove that the flights were ever booked.
Taking seven similar charges into account, the court sentenced her to 20 weeks in jail, which she reportedly intends to appeal.
Her lawyers said Leelavadi would try to pay back the money she stole “not for the sole purpose of an expectation of a lighter punishment, but due to her genuine remorse for her actions and her desire to ensure that the victims were not out of pocket given her actions”, according to Yahoo News.
They said Leelavadi had never claimed to be an agent and was just an experienced traveller with many contacts to assist in arranging tours, which she offered only to family and friends.
On top of this, they said Leelavadi did not profit from the trips, and was tricked by an Indian agent who disappeared with her client’s money.
Featured image source: iStock/Rattankun Thongbun