Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of VIVIAN CHENG, 47, a travel agent, for stealing approximately $45,000 from her customers and defrauding others through a related scheme. The defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and is next expected to appear in court on April 20, 2016.
“Numerous victims in this case paid for roundtrip airfare to spend time with their families and loved ones, only to receive one-way tickets from the defendant or, in some cases, no tickets at all,” said District Attorney Vance. “Some travelers were left stranded overseas, having to pay for new tickets out of pocket, or prevented from taking their trips entirely. While the holiday travel season may be drawing to a close, travelers are advised to remain on alert for potential scams.”
As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, between February 2014 and May 2015, CHENG stole from and defrauded customers of Bestway Travel, a Chinatown-based travel agency owned and operated by the defendant. In some cases, the defendant purchased one-way tickets for travelers who paid CHENG for roundtrip fare, leaving many victims stranded abroad in Asia with no way of returning to the U.S. Many of these victims were elderly individuals who were forced to pay additional fees to return home, on top of what had already been paid to CHENG. In other cases, the defendant charged her victims for roundtrip fare but did not purchase tickets at all, instead providing her victims with receipts and itineraries designed to deceive them into believing that they possessed the necessary documentation to travel. Some victims did not realize that they lacked valid tickets until arriving at the airport.
As part of the scheme, CHENG also used individuals’ credit cards without their authorization or permission to purchase tickets for other travelers who had already paid the defendant for airfare, often in cash. In at least one instance, CHENG charged more than $60,000 in airline tickets without the cardholder’s permission or knowledge.
Assistant District Attorney Rosemary Yu handled the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Archana Rao, Principal Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Program Coordinator Tian Tian, Unit Coordinator Jacob Pang, and Principal Financial Investigator Evelyn Marrero provided additional assistance with the case.
District Attorney Vance also thanked the following individuals and organizations for their assistance with the investigation: NYPD Police Officer Chris Rong, the 5th Precinct Detective Squad, the 5th Precinct Community Affairs, 5th Precinct Chinatown Project; Airlines Reporting Corporation Fraud Investigators Douglas Nass and Christine Hettich; the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association; and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and her staff.
VIVIAN CHENG, D.O.B. 11/16/1968
- Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
- Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 3 counts