Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment of VIVIAN CHENG, 46, a travel agent, for stealing approximately $45,000 from victims and defrauding others as part of the scheme. The defendant is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with Grand Larceny in the Third and Fourth Degrees, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and Petit Larceny.
“As the peak summer travel season draws to a close, travelers are encouraged to remain on alert for fraud,” said District Attorney Vance. “Victims of the alleged scheme—which included elderly individuals, adult children returning to China to visit sick parents, and families traveling together—were unable to go on their planned trips or stranded abroad with no way of returning home. Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many similar schemes targeting members of specific communities, which is why individuals are reminded to be vigilant against scams, obtain e-ticket numbers, and keep documentation of payment and financial transactions in order to avoid falling victim to fraud.”
According to the indictment and documents filed in court, between February 2014 and May 2015, CHENG, the owner and proprietor of Bestway Travel (also known as “First Chamber” and “Broadview Logistics”) located at 12 Pell Street in Chinatown, stole from and defrauded numerous individuals through various alleged schemes. In several cases, CHENG used credit cards belonging to other individuals pay for plane tickets for which the defendant had been paid in cash by other travelers. In at least one instance, CHENG charged more than $60,000 in airline tickets without permission and unbeknownst to the cardholder.
As part of her scheme, the defendant also purchased one-way tickets for travelers who paid for roundtrip fare to Asia, leaving victims unable to board their return flights and stranded abroad. Many of these victims were elderly and were forced to pay additional fees, on top of what had been previously paid to the defendant, in order to return home.
In some cases, CHENG accepted payment for roundtrip tickets and did not purchase tickets at all, instead providing her victims with receipts and itineraries to deceive them into believing that they possessed necessary the information and documents to travel. In some instances, victims did not realize they did not possess valid tickets until they arrived at the airport and were unable to travel.
The investigation into this case is continuing. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Immigrant Affairs Unit will hold an upcoming informational session for the public on this case; anyone who feels that he or she may be a victim of this scheme is encouraged to attend. Details will be provided in the coming weeks.
In similar, but unrelated cases, in February 2014, Cecilia Suarez, a freelance travel agent, was sentenced to 1 ½-to-4 ½ years in state prison for using a comparable scheme to defraud more than 30 individuals seeking to travel to and from the Dominican Republic. In December 2014, ten individuals were indicted in connection with a commercial travel scam involving the theft of more than $1 million from approximately 200 victims; the case is pending.
Assistant District Attorney Rosemary Yu is handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Archana Rao, Principal Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Program Coordinator Tian Tian, Unit Coordinator Jacob Pang, and Principal Financial Investigator Evelyn Marrero provided additional assistance with the investigation.
District Attorney Vance also thanked the following individuals and organizations for their assistance: NYPD Police Officer Chris Rong, the 5th Precinct Detective Squad, the 5th Precinct Community Affairs, 5th Precinct Chinatown Project; Airlines Reporting Corporation Fraud Investigators Douglas Nass and Christine Hettich; the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association; and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and her staff.
 The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.
VIVIAN CHENG, D.O.B. 11/16/1968