AZUSA, California - For nearly a month, angry customers and business partners have been going to the home of Sherwin Bagas in Azusa, California, hoping to get refunds from the travel agent who they claim swindled them out of thousands of dollars.
Some travelers who bought airline tickets to the Philippines from Bagas’ employer, AM Travels, said they spent as much as $6,000, and often paid in cash, for airline reservations only to find out later on that the tickets were not booked.
They have filed complaints with the local police department and their cases have now been forwarded to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
Alleged victims based in Northern California have also come forward.
“I’m sad because my family is already waiting for me and my nephew from Dubai will meet me there in the Philippines,” Emilda Talabis said, “And I requested my vacation days since July. It’s really sad these people are doing this.”
“We trusted him with our hard earned money (because) he’s Filipino. Now a lot of people suffering for this,” Sheila Santos said.
Some of the customers purchased tickets through sub-agents, who were offered business opportunities by Bagas. Agents like the Vilma and Ferdie Perez would sell airline tickets on Bagas’ behalf. The latter would then pay them a commission after they’ve collected payments.
“He encouraged us to invest, to buy ticket slots for January to December next year. It’s been okay since February to September. October 1st nalaman naming walang mga tickets ang pasahero. We're calling Philippine Airlines, wala yung mga pangalan nila doon. Doon na kami nag panic," Vilma Perez said.
Vilma and Ferdie Perez said they collected and endorsed close to $200,000 from clients, which Bagas reportedly ran away with.
Bagas’ neighbor said they saw the former taking out furniture with a U-Haul truck one night and eventually leaving the house another night bringing luggage with him at the time when many people were looking for him.
Amy Manalo, the owner of A M Travel Services, could not be reached for comment. She has however, emailed the sub-agents claiming she too was victimized by Bagas, whom many believe may be hiding in the Philippines.