A travel agent from Saratoga Springs, Utah was charged, on May 7, with stealing $272,500 from the Southside High School Band in Fort Smith, according to a news release.
Calliope “Ope” Rocky Saaga, 40, appeared Monday in U.S. Magistrate Court before Judge James Marschewski on a three-count indictment for a wire fraud scheme, according to a news release from Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
U.S. Attorney Eldridge commented, “As alleged, this case involves defrauding high school students and their parents out of money set aside to take a once-in-a-lifetime band trip. It is unfathomable that someone would take money from students seeking to do something worthwhile – in this case travel to perform as part of the Southside High School Band.”
“This malicious scheme not only affected Southside High School, but innocent students and parents as well,” stated FBI Special Agent David Resch.
Saaga was doing business with the Southside High School Band to provide travel arrangements for a 2012 trip to Hawaii. He was wired three payments between Sept., 2011, and Feb., 2012, and instead of arranging the trip, Saaga used the money for personal use, according to the news release.
The trip ended up being cancelled due to lack of funds, the release states.
If convicted, “The sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum of 20 years for each count in this case, and in most cases will be less than the maximum,” the release states.