The owner of a Chinatown travel agency has been indicted in New York State Supreme Court for allegedly defrauding customers of more than $45,000 in airplane tickets between February 2014 and May 2015. In several instances, she allegedly purchased one-way tickets for customers who had paid her for round trips to China—effectively stranding them abroad.
According to a release from the Manhattan DA's office, 46-year-old Vivian Cheng—the owner of Bestway Travel at 8 Pell Street (also known as First Chamber and Broadway Logistics)—allegedly made a habit of using one customer's credit card information to purchase tickets for another customer who had already paid her in cash. Many of the customers who fell victim to Cheng's one-way-ticket-to-China trick ended up paying her additional fees before returning home.
According to Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Cheng's victims included "elderly individuals, adult children returning to China to visit sick parents, and families." The News reports that at least 100 former customers have filed grievances against her.
Some of them paid for roundtrip tickets that Cheng never purchased. Instead of actual tickets, she'd allegedly hand over receipts and itineraries to make customers think they were all set for vacation—in many cases right up until they arrived at the airport to check in. One justifiably upset (and arguably quite helpful) Yelp reviewer shared this warning about Bestway in April:
Horrible customer service. You paid for your tickets but when you get to the airport, they would tell you your name was NOT on the passenger list. You can't get on the flight. And it was NOT a standby ticket. You find your flight schedule was changed without this agency even consulting or notifying you.
Cheng has been charged with grand larceny, scheme to defraud, and petit larceny. She was arraigned on Monday, and her next court date is set for September 30th.