DOJ SealDepartment of Justice

United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe
Eastern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               CONTACT:  DAVILYN WALSTON
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2007                                      PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER
WWW.USDOJ.GOV/USAO/txe                                                      PHONE: (409) 839-2538
                                                                                                            CELL: (409) 553-9881

Passengers duped for non-existent cruise


SHERMAN, TX -       United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe announced today that two former McKinney travel agents have been convicted of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud in the Eastern District of Texas. 

CAROL RIBAUDO, 52, and SONJA RITZ, 28, both of Clearwater, Florida, were each found guilty by a jury late yesterday afternoon of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, and nine counts of wire fraud in connection with their roles in a scheme to sell booking to passengers for a fraudulent cruise.   

            According to information presented in court, between July 2003 and January of 2004, Ribaudo and Ritz operated Elite Business Services, a travel-related business located in McKinney, Texas.  At trial, prosecutors presented the testimony of 30 witnesses and introduced almost 200 exhibits establishing that Ribaudo and Ritz made a series of false representations to prospective passengers indicating that they would be booked on a charter cruise scheduled to occur in February 2004 and accepted payments from these prospective passengers, despite the fact that Ribaudo and Ritz had neither contracted with any cruise line for passage nor had they provided payments to any cruise line.
            The guilty verdict was returned late yesterday after a five day trial before United States District Judge Richard A. Schell. 

            Ribaudo and Ritz each face up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000.00 fine at sentencing.  They may also be required to pay restitution to their victims of at least approximately $210,000.  Sentencing dates have not been set.

            The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Shamoil T. Shipchandler and J. Andrew Williams.


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