Owner of Chinatown Travel Agency Arraigned in Connection with Citizenship, Airline Ticket Schemes
Defendant Allegedly Stole More Than $89,000 from Clients, Failed to Deliver Services
BOSTON – A Chinatown travel agency owner has been arraigned in connection with stealing more than $89,000 from multiple clients in schemes involving U.S. citizenship applications and airline tickets, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Through her business, Sky Energy Travel, Inc., the defendant, May Woo Lei, 40, of Boston, allegedly took money from clients in exchange for help with citizenship applications but failed to deliver those services, and also allegedly misled certain clients regarding airline tickets they paid her for and failed to deliver valid tickets.
May Woo Lei (“Woo”) was arraigned today in Suffolk Superior Court on charges of Larceny over $250 of a Person Sixty or Over (4 counts) and Larceny over $250 (20 counts). At the arraignment, Woo pleaded not guilty and was released on personal recognizance, under the conditions that she surrender her passport, not travel outside of the Commonwealth without notice and court permission, not engage in the travel business, and not advise people regarding citizenship or immigration issues in return for payment. Clerk-Magistrate Gary Wilson presided over today’s arraignment.
Woo operated Sky Energy Travel, a travel agency located in the Chinatown section of Boston. In addition to booking air travel, Woo also allegedly presented herself as able to assist people in obtaining U.S. citizenship. In June 2012, the AG’s Office began an investigation after receiving numerous complaints about the business, many of which were referred by the Chinese Progressive Association.
Authorities allege that Woo persuaded Chinese resident immigrants that, for a fee, she would help them apply for and attain U.S. citizenship despite the fact that they did not meet the English language requirement. According to investigators, Woo assured those clients that she would arrange for a doctor to issue a certification that would waive the English requirement for them and also promised to help translate at their citizenship interviews.
However, it is alleged that none of the victims received notifications from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that their applications had been received, and USCIS verified that no applications were filed in the names of any of the victims. Authorities allege that 16 victims were defrauded of a total of nearly $50,000 between November 2009 and February 2012 as a result of this scheme.
In addition, it is alleged that in several instances, Woo falsely assured victims who paid for airline tickets that they had valid tickets or that she would be getting them tickets shortly. According to authorities, the victims later discovered that tickets had never been purchased or that their flight reservations had been cancelled by the ticket wholesalers for non-payment by Woo. Authorities allege Woo defrauded travel clients of a total of more than $40,000 between February and July 2012 and in one incident in 2010.
A Suffolk County Special Grand Jury returned indictments against Woo on November 5. She was arraigned today in Suffolk Superior Court where she pleaded not guilty to all charges. Woo is due back in court on January 17, 2013 for a pre-trial conference.
These charges are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Molly Parks, of AG Coakley’s Fraud and Financial Crimes Division. This case was investigated by State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and Division Chief Sallyann Nelligan and Investigator Marco DePalma of the AG’s Financial Investigations Division. Victim Witness Advocate Ashley Cinelli of the AG’s Victim Services Division also assisted in this case. USCIS and the Chinese Progressive Association provided extensive assistance in this matter.