Owner of West Tennessee Travel Agency Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud
Jackson, TN – A West Tennessee woman pleaded guilty to wire fraud. D. Michael Dunavant, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee announced the guilty plea today.
According to the charging instrument, Ronda Hopkins Richards, 54, is the owner of Ronda’s Travel Corner, in Jackson, TN. From November 2016 to July 2017, Richards defrauded approximately 100 clients/victims of funds related to their travel. In some cases, Richards enticed the victims to pay cash for a trip that was never booked. In other instances, she booked air travel for victims, but did not provide lodging at the destination for which the victim had pre-paid.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: "This act of greed and selfishness has caused many of the more than 100 victims to endure unnecessary and unwarranted financial hardship. This case reflects the resolve of the U.S. Attorney’s Office along with partner agencies to bring to justice those individualswho commit fraud and prey on the innocent."
On June 19, 2017, Richards convinced a client to write a $17,172.00 check to Ronda’s Travel Corner for a family trip to Disney World. The trip was scheduled for March 24, 2018, through March 31, 2108. Richards never booked the trip, but instead deposited the check into her own personal account at First South Bank and used the funds for her personal gain.
This transaction caused a wire transmission of $17,172.00 to occur in interstate commerce, between the victims’ bank, Greenfield Banking Company, Greenfield, TN, through the Federal Reserve Check Clearing Center located in Atlanta, GA, and then to First South Bank in Jackson, TN. This interstate transmission resulted in the crime of wire fraud. Over 100 of Ronda’s Travel Corner clientele were victims of similar schemes. Because of this scheme, the victims lost a total of approximately $410,280.25.
On August 3, 2017, Richards was interviewed by the Jackson Police Department. She stated that she had fallen behind in her payments and began taking money, did not keep up with what she had taken and "everything spiraled out of control."
"Ronda Richards robbed families of once-in-a-lifetime vacations, graduation trips, and anniversary celebrations; leaving them with empty bank accounts and in one case, stranded in a foreign country," said Deputy Chief Tyreece Miller of the Jackson Police Department. "Her actions were inexcusable and criminal. JPD is pleased to have a hand in bringing her to justice."
Richard faces up to 20 years imprisonment; $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release. This case was investigated by the Jackson Police Department and the United States Secret Service.
For more information, or if there are other victims who have not made their losses known, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Coordinator at 901-544-4231.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor L. Ivy is prosecuting this case on the government’s behalf.