Citrus County Man Pleads Guilty To Receiving Stolen Benefit Payments From The Department Of Veterans Affairs
Jacksonville, Florida – Juan Carlos Arteaga (58, Conroe, TX) today pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Arteaga has agreed to pay at least $779,687 in restitution to the victims of his offenses. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, from at least March 2018 through at least January 2019, Arteaga, a former resident of Jacksonville, held himself out as someone who could provide customers with heavily discounted travel arrangements for both domestic and international travel. He acted as a travel agent for clients throughout Florida and the United States. Despite operating as a de facto travel agent, Arteaga was not a licensed travel agent.
Arteaga solicited friends, business contacts, acquaintances, and referrals from those individuals to purchase sham travel arrangements from him, including but not limited to domestic and international airfare, hotel rooms, and tickets to amusement parks. Arteaga used some of the funds he obtained from victims to purchase travel arrangements for others, which delayed discovery of the scheme since it appeared that the money victims paid was being used to purchase the travel they had requested. Arteaga also used some of the proceeds from the scheme for his personal enrichment, including his mortgage payment, short term loans, credit card and cable bills, grocery purchases, nursing home expenses, and withdrawing large amounts of cash.
Two of the victims of Arteaga’s scheme were P.C. and A.C., who were longtime friends of Arteaga. In 2018, P.C. and A.C. began talking to Arteaga about a trip around the world through Road Scholar, Explore the World by Private Jet. P.C. and A.C. had successfully booked other travel arrangements in the past with Arteaga and had vacationed with Arteaga and his wife numerous times. Arteaga said that the Road Scholar trip would cost approximately $100,000, but if P.C. and A.C. paid him by the next day, Arteaga could get them the trip for $60,000. Arteaga instructed A.C. and P.C. to pay him $20,000, broken into five check payments, and to wire the $40,000 balance to him. A.C. and P.C. wired $40,000 to Arateaga.
In August 2018, P.C. heard from some friends that their trips with Arateaga had not been booked. A.C. then called Road Scholar and learned that their trip had not been booked. Road Scholar also advised they did not any provide discounts, including to travel agents. After discovering the trip was a sham, A.C. and P.C. confronted Arteaga who said that he had not yet booked their trip because he was concerned about P.C.’s health. However, neither P.C. nor A.C. had raised P.C.’s health as a reason for delaying the Road Scholar trip and they were not interested in postponing the trip.
As with other victims in his scheme, Arteaga did not use any of the funds he had received from A.C. and P.C. toward any trip with Road Scholar. Instead, he used the money to make travel arrangements for other victims and for himself, as well as to repay other travel victims.
This case was investigated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ashley Washington.