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Couple Accused of Embezzling High School Band Trip Payments

A married couple who own a travel business were charged with embezzlement after they allegedly accepted payment for booking international trips to Japan for San Diego high school band members and their parents, and then cancelled the trips. The company then filed for bankruptcy and the people were not offered refunds for the thousands of dollars they had spent.

Brad and Margie Matheson are the proprietors of a Georgia based travel service called Harmony International. In January 2016, they extended a package to four San Diego area high school’s band departments. The offer was for the school’s band members to take an international trip where parents could accompany their children to Japan.

Brad Matheson presented the offer in a Skype meeting telling parents and students, “If you register before March 1, 2016, for this group, you’ll receive free trip cancellation insurance.” He stated this offer was intended as an added incentive bonus in order to encourage early registration.

Parents and students from San Marcos, Mission Hills, Eastlake and Del Norte high schools were presented with the offer and 70 people booked and paid for their trips.

In May, Harmony International filed for bankruptcy. Parents were informed by an attorney representing the Matheson’s that the cancellation insurance policies were never purchased, and although it is required by state law the money paid by the travelers was never put into a trust account. The attorney stated, “Ultimately there is simply not enough money available to provide the refunds that were promised.”

There are also no records indicating that Harmony International had registered with the California District Attorney’s Office as a seller of travel, as the law requires.

32 victims have been named in the indictment, and the total loss of money by the students and their parents is close to $100,000.

On November 10 Brad Matheson was taken into custody in Dade County, Florida awaiting a hearing on Thursday concerning his extradition to San Diego. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Margie Matheson whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

The Matheson’s have been accused over 90 felony counts and two misdemeanors including embezzlement, failing to maintain passenger funds in a trust account, and failing to provide refunds. An additional misdemeanor charge was filed due to lack of registering with the DA as a seller of travel.

If you or someone you love is suspected of embezzlement, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.

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