FDLE agents arrested Maria Constanza Shults, 62, of 10834 Rutherford Court, Jacksonville, on one count of organized scheme to defraud in excess of $50,000, where she sold pilgrimages to religious sites, then canceled the trips without refunding the victims’ money.
“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 Pam Bondi. “Thanks to a great partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this travel fraud scheme has been shut down.”
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said: “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.”
Throughout 2015, Shults proposed trips to Catholic parishioners to holy sites in countries such as Israel, Italy and Portugal. Shults collected payments averaging from $2,500 to $7,000 from the victims and then canceled the trips without refunding the victims’ money. Through its investigation, which began in September 2015, FDLE identified 27 known victims throughout multiple circuits in North and Central Florida with a total loss of over $106,000.
Shults was arrested on Friday and booked into the John E. Goode Detention Facility, Jacksonville, Florida.
The case will be prosecuted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution, Jacksonville.