Rosa Jimenez was proud of her son. Martin Jimenez had just completed boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in Chicago and was about to graduate. The 54-year-old mom made arrangements to take a few days off from her job at Grimmway Farms so she and two other family members could be there for Martin's graduation in March.
Last year, she paid $900 in cash to Roberto Orozco, owner of Bahia Travel & Mulitservices on South H Street. Jimenez said Orozco told her paying in cash would save her money by avoiding credit card fees. A few weeks later she called Orozco to purchase a fourth ticket, but no one answered the phone. Several more attempts yielded nothing.
Sensing something might be amiss, Jimenez called the airline to confirm her flight. She found out neither she nor her family members were booked on any flight to Chicago.
In June 2016 Sandra Romero purchased four airline tickets from Bahia Travel and paid close to $2,000. Payment was made through her Bank of America debit card, and her trip went off without any problem she said. But just a few weeks later, Romero said she noticed a total of an additional $4,600 in charges made to her account from Bahia Travel.
The 30-year-old single mother said Orozco told her he had "inadvertently" charged her card again multiple times, promising he would resolve the issue. Despite repeated attempts to reach him again, Romero said the charges remain and she is out $4,600 as the money was taken from her checking account.
Last November, 67-year-old Sarah Esquer also conducted business with Bahia Travel. The retired businesswoman said she paid $560 with a credit card to the travel agency for a ticket for her daughter to visit Cuba. But when her daughter showed up at LAX with ticket in hand, she was told it was invalid. And like Romero, Esquer would soon find out that more than $5,000 in unauthorized charges was make to her credit card by Bahia Travel.
Also in March 2016, Juan Arturo Santos needed to make a trip to his native Costa Rica to see his elderly ailing parents. He too, said he paid Orozco $560 cash for a flight to San Jose. The 62-year-old cook said Orozco told him to return in a couple of weeks to confirm his flight. Santos said when he did so, the office was shuttered and the phone number listed for the business went unanswered. Something didn't seem right he said. So guess what happened when he called the airline to confirm his flight? That's right, Santos had never been booked on any flight. He paid an additional $700 plus to buy another ticket to see his mother before she passed away.
Since this story aired on Telemundo Valle Central, more people have come forward with similar stories in their dealings with Bahia Travel. But the most bizarre tale of why this happened comes from the man at the center of this, Roberto Orozco. He said he was willing to come in for an interview to give his side of the story. Orozco admitted he had taken money from clients without actually booking their flights or paying the airline.
Why did he do it? "I was going through a difficult time," he said. OK, I suppose the travel business can be slow at times. But what Orozco said next was more than strange. He blamed Donald Trump. You see, when Trump ordered the travel ban from seven countries in January, that's when things started to crumble, Orozco said.
"Sales started to fall, people were scared to travel and they started canceling reservations," said the 45-year-old.
Hold on a bit. Orozco's alleged misdeeds happened between June and December of last year which was well before Trump's travel ban. Don't you hate it when facts get in the way? Then he abruptly closed his office. Why? "Because I'm a responsible person and I needed time to figure out what to do next," was his answer.
Orozco is an extremely smooth talking man who can be convincing that he will make things right for everyone he scammed.
"It was an error on my part. I am going to pay everyone back and reimburse them for any added expenses," claimed the travel agent. And he asked to be forgiven. "Everyone deserves a second chance," said Orozco with a straight face.
Travel agents or "sellers of travel" are required to be registered with the state Attorney General's office. When I checked with that office, I was told it had no record of a Roberto Orozco or Bahia Travel & Multiservices registered. Not being registered could mean civil and or criminal penalties depending on the circumstances.
As fate would have it, Esquer was hospitalized when she saw Orozco on TV explaining his side. "I said, 'Oh no, that man's lying.' He promised he would pay me back and checks he's written to me have bounced," she said. When questioned by Telemundo about the bounced checks, Orozco evaded the question and hung up the phone. He has not returned repeated phone calls.
His apparent wayward way has taken a new turn. After a BPD investigation, the Kern County District Attorney's office last week filed three felony and two misdemeanor charges of grand theft. An arrest warrant has been issued, but first the cops have to find him. According to the criminal complaint, Orozco ran a fictitious travel agency.
Sadly, it appears all clients who lost money with Orozco may be left with no recourse but to sue. Good luck with that.
Victims said they were left feeling angry, sad and frustrated. Most are hard working people living paycheck to paycheck.
"I work hard for my money," said Santos, the cook. "How can a person do this to another?"