Waltham Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Customers of Former Newton Travel Agency
BOSTON – A Waltham man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with a scheme in which he defrauded hundreds of customers of the now-defunct Tom Harper Cruises, of more than $2 million in cruise trip deposits.
Bret A. Gordon, 43, pleaded guilty to six counts of wire fraud and two counts of filing a false personal tax return. U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled sentencing for Feb. 8, 2017.
In 2013, Gordon established and owned a 65% interest in Tom Harper Cruises, a business selling overseas river cruise vacations. As the company’s manger, Gordon had exclusive control of its bank accounts and finances. Soon after Tom Harper Cruises began operating, Gordon started to take money from its bank account for his own use, primarily for casino gambling. The funds received by the company were customer payments for trips, which were operated by independent cruise companies, so Tom Harper Cruises needed to retain sufficient funds to pay those independent companies.
As a result of Gordon’s actions, Tom Harper Cruises became unable to pay some of its regular business expenses and, inevitably, to pay the independent cruise companies for the trips ordered by customers. In June 2015, Tom Harper Cruises closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy. Between September 2013 and June 2015, Gordon took about $2,258,500 from Tom Harper Cruise’s accounts for his own use. About 400 customers were left without the trips they planned for, after paying Tom Harper Cruises a total of approximately $3,167,128.
Gordon also failed to report the money he had taken as income on his personal income tax returns. He failed to report about $165,000 that he received in tax year 2013, and about $900,000 that he had taken in tax year 2014.
The mail fraud statute provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. The tax statute provides for a sentence of no greater than three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office; and Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. Balthazard of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.