Collegiate tour operator facing federal charges

Small business owners are often dedicated and highly motivated individuals who are willing to work hard and accept a certain level of risk. When this hard work and risk taking pays off, these entrepreneurs’ small businesses grow and provide an important bright spot in a shaky economy. When circumstances become insurmountable, however, the same propensities that can lead to success can also lead to significant trouble.

A Fayetteville tour operator who had specialized in providing tours for college athletes is now facing federal fraud charges. The suspect was arrested at his home yesterday after a grand jury indicted him on charges of mail fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud and making a false declaration in a bankruptcy filing.

In 2009, ESPN aired a broadcast about the failed travel business and how trips that had already been paid for were cancelled. The suspect said at the time that his company was having financial difficulties and that he never had any intent to do anything wrong. The indictment alleged, among other things, that the suspect had used the money that customers had prepaid for future trips to pay for expenses associated with other customers’ trips.

It is understandable, and to be expected, that those customers who never received the travel services and were never refunded are very upset. Some of them are apparently out thousands of dollars and missed opportunities to travel which can never be replaced.

There are those who enter into seemingly legitimate business enterprises for the sole purpose of committing fraud. In many other cases, however, business owners simply find themselves sliding backwards but are optimistic that better days are right around the corner. In these situations, the line between unwise business decisions and fraudulent actions may not be as clear as any of us would like it to be.

Source: ESPN, “Tour operator facing federal charges,” Paula Lavigne, Sept 14, 2011