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Travel Agent Indicted For Stealing Willard Band Booster Trip Money

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Travel Agent Indicted For Stealing Willard Band Booster Trip Money

By Nancy Simpson. CREATED May 7, 2014

A travel agent from Utah has been indicted by a federal grand jury for stealing $360,000 from the Willard High School Band Boosters.

The group had to cancel its trip to Hawaii.

The feds say the travel agent didn't book airfare, lodging or transportation for the group, but rather spent the money on things like gambling in Vegas, an international trip and Disneyland.

Edited from a press release from the US Attorney's office:

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a travel agent was indicted by a federal grand jury today for stealing $360,000 from the Willard High School Band Boosters, which forced the cancellation of a trip to Hawaii for more than 300 students and chaperones.

Callipe Rocky Saaga, also known as “Ope,” 39, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, was charged in a 15-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo.

According to today’s indictment, Saaga, doing business as Present America Tours, LLC, contracted with the Willard High School Band Boosters in January 2011 to provide travel arrangements for a June 2012 band trip to Hawaii. Saaga was responsible for booking airfare, lodging, transportation, meals, tours, and travel insurance for over 300 students and chaperones.

The Willard High School Band Boosters wired 12 payments of $30,000 each to Saaga between February 2011 and January 2012. Saaga booked no reservations as required in the contract, the indictment says. Instead, as he received wire transfers from the band boosters, Saaga allegedly used the funds to finance his personal lifestyle, which included gambling in Las Vegas, Nev., international travel to Samoa, a trip to Disneyland, and numerous other expenses unrelated to the terms of the contract.

As a result of Saaga’s diversion of funds, the indictment says, the Willard High School band trip was cancelled and the Willard High School Band Boosters suffered a loss of $360,000. While he was spending the money of the Willard High School Band Boosters to finance his personal lifestyle, the indictment says, Saaga transmitted e-mails to the Willard High School director of bands, which lulled the band boosters into believing that their trip to Hawaii was on schedule.

Today’s indictment charges Saaga with 12 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Saaga to forfeit to the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged offense, including a $400,000 money judgment.

Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abram McGull II. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the FBI and the Willard, Mo., Police Department.

Nancy Simpson

Nancy Simpson

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With a passion for news, Nancy has worked at KTTS for 15 years. Awarded Best Newscast from Missouri Broadcasters Association and recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting