Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement today announced the arrest of Maria Constanza Shults in connection with an organized travel fraud scheme operating in north and central Florida. According to the FDLE investigation, Shults, 62, of Jacksonville, operated an organized scheme defrauding a total of 27 known victims of more than $100,000. Shults’ scheme targeted Catholic parishioners by offering trips to holy sites.
“Preying on people’s religious faith to defraud them will not be tolerated and my Office of Statewide Prosecution will aggressively prosecute this case,” said Attorney General Bondi. “Thanks to a great partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this travel fraud scheme has been shut down.”
“Fraud can take many forms and in this case, it preyed on the trust of unsuspecting Florida citizens. FDLE is committed to fighting this crime and I am grateful for the hard work of our agents and the diligence of the Office of the Attorney General,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.
From 2012 through 2015, Shults allegedly proposed trips to Catholic parishioners to holy sites in countries such as Israel, Italy and Portugal. After collecting payments ranging from $2,500 to $7,000 from the victims, Shults allegedly canceled the trips without refunding the victims’ money.
Shults faces one count of organized scheme to defraud in excess of $50,000. The Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the case.