Airline ticket scam dupes Pinoys in US

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 18 2010 07:08 PM | Updated as of Jun 19 2010 03:08 AM

SAN JOSE – Hundreds of Filipinos wanting to buy cheap airline tickets to the Philippines fell victim to a ticket scam in the United States.

On Wednesday, the group went to the house of Lily Anne Sison-Lee in San Jose, who sells roundtrip tickets to the Philippines. They paid Sison-Lee but never received the tickets. Sison-Lee has disappeared since Thursday and has not returned calls.

Ethel Cavan, a victim of the alleged ticket scam, knocked on Sison-Lee’s home and said, “Hoy! Ibalik mo na sa amin ang pera!”

Cavan paid for 3 roundtrip tickets to the Philippines worth $750 each. She was told that she would get her flight itinerary only 3 days before the flight.

“Normally, when you buy your ticket, you immediately get it online, your e-ticket.  That was a red flag for me,” Cavan said.

Another victim, Charles De La Cruz, said he and his family bought 16 roundtrip tickets to the Philippines for a family wedding.

“Paalis na kami ngayon. Kaya lang kumuha na lang ako ng ibang ticket sa agency,” De La Cruz said.

They had no choice but to buy tickets from another agency worth 3 times more because he said Sison-Lee did not deliver. He said they spent all their pocket money.

“Pinambili ng tickets. Kaya wala nang gagastusin sa Pilipinas. Napasubo na lang yung credit cards,” said De La Cruz.

Chloe Homen acted as Sison-Lee’s middleman and is a ticket agent. She would buy tickets from Sison-Lee and then sell them to others. Homen has been in business with her for 2 years. She says Sison-Lee had always delivered.

This is the first time she failed her and Homen reported her friend to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“Mayroon na nga client na-ospital dahil sa stress,” said Homen.

About 240 people who bought from Homen have not received their tickets. She owes more than $200,000 because of the scam.

“Gusto ko man ibalik ang pera nila, I don’t have the capacity to pay kasi ako I’m also a victim,” said Homen.

Irene Mayor is Homen’s sub-agent. Mayor claimed that she lost more than $100,000 by buying replacement tickets for her clients.

“It’s just money. But its hard-earned money,” said Mayor.

The group plans to file a police report against Sison-Lee. Balitang America tried to reach Sison-Lee at her home and work but she could not be reached.

Records show there may be more victims. The FBI encouraged all those who have been victimized to band together to make a stronger case against Sison-Lee.

Johnny Francisco, Director of Mango Tours, said Sison-Lee purchased tickets from their travel agency and had occasionally paid cash because she was not an authorized reseller.

“They should have dealt with a legal travel agent. In the state of California, they should be dealing with travel agents who belong to the seller of travel. I strongly advise passengers, when they buy their travel tickets, more so especially in cash, they should also get not only their receipt but their electronic ticket receipt,” Francisco advised future travelers. Balitang America