MILPITAS, Calif. (KTVU) - Bay Area residents scammed out of thousands of dollars after a travel agent promised airfare, hotel and excursions in Hawaii but none of that materialized.
Authorities in Santa Clara County are investigating travel agent Wendy Wong and her company, House of Aloha Hawaii. A group of 100 people said they used her services to book a 25-year wedding anniversary trip and are out $100,000 collectively.
Wong is based in Honolulu but grew up in Milpitas. Police said 13 victims, all Milpitas residents, have filed police reports but they've heard from victims from all over the Bay Area.
Cassandra Bernal's trip to Hawaii this month was supposed to be a momentous occasion to celebrate her friends renewing their wedding vows for their 25-year anniversary. It isn't quite what happened.
"I'm still in shock," said Bernal. "I'm numb and I don't know how to feel how can anyone do this?"
Bernal is among a group of 25 families who all used House of Aloha travel services. Bernal showed KTVU itineraries and invoices that she later found out were bogus. Days leading up to the trip she learned no travel arrangements had been made.
"(How much total did you give her?) Total for everything $10,608," said Bernal.
"(How much have you lost?) In total about $10,000," said Mary Lee of Milpitas.
"We lost $3,550," said Richard Cueto of Milpitas.
Cueto and his wife trusted Wong, a long-time friend from Milpitas. She graduated from Milpitas High in 1995.
"It felt like a stab in the back just broken," said Cueto.
He said he authorized her to use his credit card for payments.
"Come to find out she used it to pay for three tickets for another group," said Cueto.
"Through our investigation we have determined there our quite a few upwards of at last count 13 victims," said Lt. John Torrez of Milpitas Police.
Milpitas Police is investigating the theft of the funds and have turned the case over to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
KTVU reached out to Wong to ask her where the money went. She wrote that she appreciated us contacting her, saying there are a lot of one sided stories right now and her legal counsel had advised her not to comment.
"She answered immediately we are going to make it work, we are trying to make it work," said Ana Santiago of Milpitas.
Ana Santiago is out $5,000 and said Wong's attorney told her she was filing for chapter seven bankruptcy. It was supposed to be her children's first time in Hawaii.
"They had just finished packing and for me to tell me we are not going that was heartbreaking," said Santiago.
The victims KTVU spoke to have not gotten their money back and are disputing the charges with their credit card companies and Venmo.
Police said Wong could face criminal charges that include theft under false pretenses and failure to provide travel services as promised. Police said she could potentially face jail time.