A West Kendall woman who operates a Sweetwater travel agency is in jail after she allegedly bilked at least a half-dozen customers of thousands of dollars in bogus plane tickets to Nicaragua, police said.
Ruth Morales, 49, owner of the Nicaraguita Travel Agency off Southwest 107th Avenue and West Flagler Street, was charged with five counts of grand theft and fraud.
”We don’t know her reasoning for doing this,” Sweetwater Detective Reny Garcia said. “She has been running a legitimate business in our city for years. Perhaps her agency was going bad or she needed to leave the country quickly. Your guess is as good as mine.”
With her business closed, police believe Morales is a flight risk. A Miami-Dade judge on Tuesday morning agreed to raise her bail to $150,000 from $25,000. Morales remains in jail.
Gressan Lopez, 22, of Liberty City is happy Morales is behind bars, but he wants to know if he is going to get his money back. His wife, who had bought tickets from the Nicaraguita Travel Agency before, bought two round-trip tickets to Nicaragua via Taca Airlines for Dec. 25 through Jan. 8.
She called the airline and learned the flights were booked, but later discovered the tickets had been canceled and Morales had pocketed the money.
”That was her strategy: Book the flights, tell customers to call the airline to verify and then cancel,” Lopez said. “How cruel can you be to do that to not just me but other people, too.
“I borrowed $490 in good faith to go home with my 4-year-old son and be there for my my siblings, who are spending their first Christmas alone after our mother’s passing. It’s not fair. This is the worst Christmas ever.”
Police are urging other possible victims to come forward and file a report.
”It’s unclear how many victims there really are, but there has to be more,” Garcia said.