PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD (The San Francisco Gate) – One by one, victims of the Maryland travel agent told the judge how they had been duped. Some paid thousands for tickets through the agent but could not board a plane when they arrived at the airport. Others successfully made it to their destinations, only to find they were stuck because the agent had not purchased return flights.
For many, the promises of airline reservations made but unkept, cost them thousands and upended Christmas travel plans.
After more than a dozen victims aired their grievances during Lorena Balbuena Aguilar’s sentencing in November 2017, a judge ordered her to pay more than $33,000 in restitution. Aguilar, who earlier spent three weeks in jail and 15 weeks in home detention, could have been ordered deported. But she was allowed to stay in the United States and avoid additional jail time to pay back her 22 victims.
“You hurt all of these people by what you did,” Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge William Snoddy told her at her previous sentencing. “It is only because you have promised to pay them back that you are not suffering consequences greater than those which you are facing.”
Two years after being sentenced in her first fraud case, Aguilar is due in court again in February to face trial on a new theft charge in which she has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors have accused her of violating her probation by defrauding more people in a sort of pyramid scheme that scammed new victims to pay off old ones.
“This pattern continues,” prosecutors with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office wrote in court filings asking that her probation be revoked. “The defendant has continued to engage in criminal acts even while on probation in this case and even when she knows that she faces the possibility of incarceration if she violates the law. She has made efforts to hide her identity and her activities, but she has not stopped victimizing people.”
Police found at least 10 new victims since Aguilar was first sentenced, according to charging documents.
A public defender for Aguilar declined to comment. Phone numbers that appeared connected to her travel agency or were listed in court documents were not in service.
Aguilar did not speak at her 2017 sentencing hearing, and neither she nor her attorney apologized to the victims, according to a court transcript of the hearing.
Aguilar has defrauded customers since at least 2015, according to court documents.