Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the arrest of a Bellmore travel agent for allegedly scamming at least six cruise trip clients out of payments totaling more than $10,000.
Darlene Buonauro, 57, of Wantagh, was charged with first-degree Scheme to Defraud.
“Instead of the luxury Alaskan cruise that they paid for, this unscrupulous travel agent allegedly left her victims high and dry when she stole their cruise fare,” Singas said.
According to Singas, in October 2017, a mailed a $250 deposit and booked a reservation through the defendant’s travel agency, Learning Through Travel Journeys in Bellmore, for a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise traveling to Alaska from August through September 2018. After booking the trip, which for some, was to celebrate a 15th wedding anniversary, the complainant then told friends and family about the cruise and four additional people booked the trip through the defendant.
Between October 2017 through April 9, 2018, the six complainants made payments toward the cruise through the defendant. In July 2018, all the complainants received notification from the defendant that their trips were paid in full and that they would receive their travel documentation in the next couple of weeks.
After not receiving the documents before the scheduled departure, the complainants reached out to Norwegian directly in August 2018 and were informed their reservations were canceled for non-payment.
It is also alleged that although some of the complainants paid the defendant for travel insurance- based on the defendant’s recommendation to do so- the defendant allegedly failed to purchase travel insurance for them. As a result, those who lost money for non-payment of the cruise were unable to file insurance claims. To sell travel insurance, a travel agent must have a license from the Department of Financial Services or work as an agent for a company licensed by DFS. Buonauro’s license expired in September 2015 and she has not been licensed to sell travel insurance since.
In total, the defendant allegedly stole $10,846.88. The investigation is continuing as to the six complainants and other possible victims and additional criminal charges are anticipated.
Buonauro was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court November 20. If convicted of the top charge, she faces a maximum of 1-1/3 to four years in prison.
Singas said that anyone who may have been a victim of this or a similar scam should call the county’s financial crimes bureau at (516) 571-2149.