DOJ SealDepartment of Justice

United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe
Eastern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          CONTACT:  DAVILYN WALSTON
MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2008                         PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER
WWW.USDOJ.GOV/USAO/txe                                        PHONE: (409) 839-2538
                                                                                                 CELL: (409) 553-9881

FORMER MCKINNEY TRAVEL AGENTS SENTENCED

SHERMAN, TX -       United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe announced today that two former McKinney travel agents have been sentenced to federal prison for 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 on August 21, 2007 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.  Ribaudo was sentenced today to 57 months in federal prison, while Ritz received a sentence of 37 months in federal prison.  Their sentencing hearing was held before United States District Judge Richard A. Schell.  Ribaudo and Ritz were also made jointly and severally liable for restitution.     

            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 in August 2007, 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.
           
            This case was 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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