Avondale Residents say they were Bilked Out of More than $100,000

A dream cruise turned into a nightmare for more than 30 mothers and daughters, including many from Avondale Estates who claim a travel agent took their money

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.

FaeFae March 12, 2011 at 03:51 AM
Max, can you help us? Too bad we couldn't find the negative comments when we booked through this scammer. Can you give us some details on your history?
D. March 15, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Someone posted here that Mr.Rocochino's home was on foreclosure. That's incorrect - he actually just purchased a home.
D. O. V. March 15, 2011 at 01:03 AM
It's Rodoquino, not Rocochino. He closed on the condo on 1/21/11. Previous to owning The International Traveler he was affiliated with another travel company, Brix Travel. Mr. Rodoquino was attending the NY Times Travel Show in NYC on Friday, March 4, 2011. He approached an employee of a company that he just recently scammed, said hello to her. Her mouth dropped open. He saw the reaction on her face and he ran!! The employees of that company looked for him for hours and couldn’t find him. I wonder what he was running from.
Judith Orput March 17, 2011 at 12:17 AM
I am so frustrated I could scream. Now my MasterCard company says I cannot have a refund until I can prove the services were not rendered (I thought I had done that) and that will be the day I was to actually take the Viking River Cruise. We're going on the cruise anyway and I don't really know how I'll prove I double paid. My agent says the only way I may get my money refunded--Steve's now- is prove that The International Traveler is no longer in business. Master Card won't do anything to help us--only send us around Robin Hood's barn. Perhaps the Aventura police department can do this. Or more likely we should find someone who can get this proof, maybe an lawyer would do this for us. If it's happening to me, it must be happening to all of you.
John in Claremont CA March 17, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Same story. Four couples traveling together on Viking booked through International Traveler. Notified on 3/14 by Viking that they had not received final payment from IT. Viking being very helpful. Notified FL AG and filing claim with credit card co.
Judith Orput March 18, 2011 at 05:38 PM
John, I hope you help us prosecute Steve by contacting every department or agency you can. Probably the most important source of help is Pam Bondi, the Attorney General of Florida. Have all eight of you will out the questionnaire. Her office will sent you another contact list. I'm very busy filling out form after form, plus making numerous phone calls.
Steve Erickson March 28, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Same story here. Steve booked a cruise for me with Viking and I received a notice from Viking of non-payment. Viking issued a cancellation to me which I then filed with my credit card company. That apparently is sufficient to prove that International Traveler did not provide the service. I also filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs that oversees travel agents. You can reach them at www.800helpfla.com or call 1-800-help-fla. Steve E.
Judith Orput March 29, 2011 at 05:17 AM
Max, So your company was bilked by Steve. How did that happen? Didn't you do enough research? Many of your comments did not apply to happened to us and were inappropriate. What makes you think Viking was the only company? It wasn't. I resent your inferences about Viking Cruise Lines. They are being extremely supportive and doing everything in their power to make things right. Many of are spending hours doing everything to expose his scam and alert agencies and organizations about Steve. We are also keeping close tabs on him to try to make sure this doesn't happen again to those of us who may have been a little too naive and trusting.
D. O. V. March 29, 2011 at 02:58 PM
I received a response from the BBB. They said they did not receive a response from Steve. Below is The International Traveler's info published on the BBB site. As of this minute, this phone number is working. BTW, the other business that Steve may have given trouble to is Perillo Tours. Additional company management personnel include: Mr. M.J. Stevens Additional Addresses 3600 Mystic Point Drive, #406 Miami, FL 33180 3600 Mystic Pointe Drive, #700.................................this is a new apartment number. Aventura, FL 33180 Additional Phone Numbers Tel: (305) 915-2774 Additional Email Addresses mj@theinternationaltraveler.us cruise@theinternationaltraveler.us
kenneth olsen March 29, 2011 at 04:59 PM
We were also defrauded by Steve Rodoquino for a Viking River Cruise. I called Viking before giving him our credit card to confirm that he was an agent that they did business with. We were told that "he was an excellent agent and they did business with him all the time". I am upset with Viking in that they did not contact us after Dec. 17, 2010 when they did not receive final payment for our trip. Even though they had our $1000 deposit, I was told by a Viking agent that "I was not the customer" and that they would not have contacted us. I only discovered this problem after I called Viking on March 9th to discuss some changes to our trip. Even then it took two calls to find out that there was a problem! I was also told by the same agent that they had given Mr. Rodoquino several extensions to make the final payments. How kind of them to give him those extensions of our money paid to him in October 2010!
Judith Orput March 29, 2011 at 11:12 PM
It's too bad you didn't work with Cheri Stratton from Viking River Cruises. She contacted me immediately about our May 22 trip. We are receiving a sizable reduction off our cruise, our airline reservations have been made with the airline and schedule I requested, and she has worked tirelessly to help us get our credit card refund for services not rendered. We do not have to pay for rebooking our cruise nor airfare until our credit card reimburses us. Maybe Viking helped me so much after what happened to the Avondale Estates group.
Judith Orput March 30, 2011 at 04:38 PM
I was the third complaint on BBB Aventura, Florida. Now there are fourteen of us.
Renee DeGross Valdes March 31, 2011 at 01:04 AM
Max - The "like" button is on Facebook (if that's what you're asking). Click on Facebook, signin and then you can go to Decatur Patch and "like" it there.
D. O. V. March 31, 2011 at 02:02 AM
http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/dpp/news/i-team-cruise-rip-off-031611 The Fox 5 News I-Team in Atlanta reported our story.
Renee DeGross Valdes March 31, 2011 at 10:05 AM
Shout out to Dana Fowle!!!
kenneth olsen April 23, 2011 at 12:33 AM
Has anyone successfully resolved their problem with their credit card company? We are still in limbo and I am hoping to hear good news that the credit card company has credited their account.
Judith Orput April 26, 2011 at 06:34 AM
After much distress with my credit card company, I believe my problem may be near closure. I was first asked to document what had happened with Steve. I included all my contacts and what I had discovered--name, date, and evidence. This didn't resolve the problem. Then I sent a second batch of material showing Steve had not fulfilled our agreement. Nothing! The third time I was told to take the first letter and add the words, "This shows Stephen Rodoquino is out of business several times. It must have done the trick because I finally got a letter saying, "We have processed a reversal." Steve was given 45 days to resolve the matter which is ridiculous, but I think that is their policy. From what I discovered about Master Card policy is that proof must be given that a company is out of business in order to prove services were not rendered. I know Cheri Stratton from Viking River Cruises tried to resolve the problem by contacting my Master Card company directly and she got nowhere either. I hope this helps. (If I've made errors, excuse me. I am having trouble seeing so I can proofread what I type.)
kenneth olsen April 26, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Thanks for your response Judith. Good news finally for you and for us too, I think. The credit card company put us through a few hoops as well, but it looks like we will be credited the amount that Steve defrauded us. I hope you enjoy your trip (if you haven't already completed it) and that this horrible incident didn't dampen your enthusiasm for a wonderful vacation.
Judith Orput April 27, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Steve, We leave for our trip on May 21, and my enthusiasm is great. Cheri Stratton and Viking Cruise Lines is funding us including air fare and insurance until our refund comes through. They even reduced our cost for the cruise. We couldn't ask for any more help from Viking. They have been terrific. I told a travel agent about how Viking treated us and she now has booked a trip through Viking for another couple. Good deeds do get noticed! I hope you get to take a river cruise, too. My husband and I have trouble getting around and think this will be the way to go. Who knows? We may do this again next year but deal with Viking directly.
Judith Orput May 06, 2011 at 09:32 PM
I expect my MasterCard is finally reversing the charges for services not rendered by Steve. I'm in the process of letting people at the bank MC center know how very unhappy I've been with this long slow process. I'm jealous of those of you who had no hastles. Has anyone heard if we're getting anywhere with the Attorney General or the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Consumer services send me a letter saying they were contacting Steve by mail. I basically told them they were wasting their time, gave them Steve's new number, they should find where this number is located, and send a person to contact Steve. Ken, We will be on the Paris to Normandy cruise. Are you getting to take your cruise, too. We deserve it.
Jon August 12, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Wondering if you all have had any success holding him liable.
Judith Orput August 22, 2011 at 06:44 AM
Does anyone have Jonathan Galvez's, the Secret Service agent from Florida, e-mail address? He called me this morning, August 23, and I misplaced his address. My e-mail address is listed previously.
sarina September 29, 2011 at 06:11 AM
Hi, I have recently found Rodonquino's profile on linked in. He started a discussion (May 2011) on the "global luxury travel network" group, where he was offering to sell his client-list: "My company has a luxury travel client list with over 4000 members including telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and personal travel preferences. It will go to highest bidder. Provide contact info." This seems a sure sign of suspicious activity. Found on: http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=122537&type=member&item=49664897&qid=674372ac-75d5-4ee3-9710-ab87a938c581&trk=group_items_see_more-0-b-ttl
Danny November 16, 2011 at 11:55 PM
My cousin fell into his sweet talk and bought her mom what this travel agent called a "trip of a lifetime" for my aunt's 80th birthday. She has a lot of money and said it's not worth her time to fight but then I found this site. I'm trying to persuade her otherwise. What do you all think?
Danny November 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Hi D.O.V. What have they done to help? How long does it take to recover the money? I was told by my travel agent that is not uncommon to see other agents get away with it. She herself said she knows someone who embezzled all kinds of cruise deposits and is now living somewhere in Costa Rica. I feel sorry for my cousin who lost all this money but she seems to think it's not worth the fight. See my post. Good luck!
Danny November 17, 2011 at 12:02 AM
You can't open it unless you are a member, Sarina.
Danny November 17, 2011 at 12:05 AM
D.O.V ... you may add a comment to the following : http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/rodoquino/13/1319765637/tpod.html
Judith Orput December 09, 2011 at 06:41 AM
Fight every way you can. Last I heard this summer was that the secret service was finally getting into his bank statements. The agent told me he was the most agnorant man he had ever met. We can't give up.
Jack December 18, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Will someone explain to these people that they can be sued and/or prosecuted for slander and defamation by publishing public accusations of "scamming" and theft in the absence of any crime being committed and proven?
Ms. December 19, 2011 at 05:09 PM
These people paid for goods and services, and their money wasn't directed to the things they were paying for through this individual. These are not isolated incidents, and considering the secret service is involved, I'm inclined to believe they know more about this than you. scam [skam]   Origin scam   [skam] Show IPA noun, verb, scammed, scam·ming. noun 1. a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.


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