Jacksonville woman accused in travel scheme to defraud Catholic parishioners out of $100k

Jacksonville, Fl. — A Jacksonville woman has been arrested and charged for carrying out a scheme to defraud travelers making trips to religious sites.

Maria Constanza Shults, 62, is accused of raking in more than $100,000 by selling pilgrimages to religious places, only to cancel the trips and keep the money, according to Florida law enforcement officials.

“Preying on people’s religious faith to defraud them will not be tolerated and my Office of Statewide Prosecution will aggressively prosecute this case,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.

“Thanks to a great partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this travel fraud scheme has been shut down.”

Shults allegedly collected payments ranging from $2,500 to $7,000 from Catholic parishioners in 2015, offering them trips to Israel, Italy and Portugal. Authorities say Shults then canceled the trips without returning any money.

FDLE found 27 victims throughout the investigation, estimating a total loss of $106,000.

Shults has been booked into the pre-trial detention facility in Jacksonville and is facing one count of an organized scheme to defraud in excess of $50,000.

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