What seemed like a dream mother-daughter cruise turned into a nightmare for more than two dozen Avondale Estates residents when they learned a Florida travel agent never paid for their vacation in full.
Avondale Estates Police Detective Tom Gillis said he learned of the incident after Marifae Jones, the spouse of former Commissioner Frank Jones, reported the wire fraud claim last month.
An Aventura, Fla.-based travel agent, Steve Rodoquino with The International Traveler, collected $137,000 from the group, most of whom were from Avondale Estates, according to Jones.
The mothers and daughters had signed up with Rodoquino for a Viking River Cruise in Europe. However, Viking officials only received a minimal amount per customer for the bookings.
"It’s a once in a lifetime trip," said Jones, who filed the police report. "When we called to talk to him, his phone number was disconnected."
Jones said the trip was to take the group up the Rhine River from Switzerland to Amsterdam, leaving March 27. But now, the group is left with a big mess with no trip. Jones said her group of four is out more than $14,000 apiece.
"We all paid in full," Jones said. "The agent is all over the internet. We’re floored."
While Jones and some of the others are hoping to receive their money back because they paid with credit cards, others -- some who are seniors -- paid with their debit cards.
The ultimate sting, Jones added, is that the agent is still sending them emails.
While Rodoquino has not been officially charged with anything, Gillis said the Avondale Estates Police Department is working closely with the City of Aventura police. Calls to Aventura's police were not returned in time for publication.
While Rodoquino could not be reached for comment, his online LinkedIn profile lists him as president and chief executive of The International Traveler since January, 2003. The profile also states that he has an MBA from the University of Miami and a bachelor's from Montclair State University in New Jersey.
There are no other jobs listed. Rodoquino also has no recommendations from others he's either worked with or worked for, which is a fairly common addition to a profile on LinkedIn.