A Park Slope youth dance troupe that was selected to perform at an elite international competition had its airfare money stolen by a fly-by-night travel agent — and it’s unclear if the kids will be able to attend the prestigious event.
The head of Dancewave Studio told police last week that a $8,585 check that was intended to cover some of the plane tickets for her two dozen teenage performers was stolen by a travel agent who claimed that she had booked and paid for the tickets through the Virginia office of Adam Travel Services, an international travel agency specializing in Islamic pilgrimages.
A smaller amount of money was also stolen off of the Dancewave credit card by the same woman, said Diane Jacobowitz, the director of the 15-year-old troupe, which was to be the only American company at the prestigious 2010 Aberdeen International Youth Festival.
“We are sick to death about this,” Jacobowitz told The Brooklyn Paper on Tuesday. “These kids raised the money themselves, with a benefit concert and by even pooling their baby-sitting money. To be scammed like this is just horrifying.”
In a subsequent statement, Jacobowitz added, “While it is unfortunate that some people would steal money from children, Dancewave is working with its bank to recover the lost money. Dancewave guarantees that no parent or child will lose a penny. The trip to Scotland will take place as scheduled.”
Here’s how the scam went down, according to Jacobowitz.
Last month, she wrote a check for $8,585 and authorized a credit card payment for a lesser amount to a “travel consolidator” who had been recommended by the parent of one of her dancers. That parent had used the consolidator for a trip to Jamaica, and the agent promised to book a block of tickets for the young dancers at a half-priced group rate.
Jacobowitz received receipts for the July bookings via e-mail, and was satisfied that the transaction was complete.
But on Jan. 15, she got a frenzied call from the parent who had recommended the travel consolidator telling her that the woman had never actually paid for the Jamaica ticket. Jacobowitz then went back to her travel documents, and sure enough, her booking receipts also indicated that the seats had been set aside, but had not been paid for.
“This whole thing is a tragedy,” said Jacobowitz, who spent Tuesday telling parents the bad news. “Every time I think about this, I start to cry. These kids raised money by themselves. This is just so wrong.”