JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested a Jacksonville woman for an organized scheme to defraud in excess of $50,000.
Maria Constanza Schults, 62, of Jacksonville, has been arrested for selling pilgrimages to religious sites, then canceling the trips without refunding the victims' money.
“Preying on people’s religious faith to defraud them will not be tolerated and my Office of Statewide Prosecution will aggressively prosecute this case,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Thanks to a great partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this travel fraud scheme has been shut down.”
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “Fraud can take many forms and in this case, it preyed on the trust of unsuspecting Florida citizens. FDLE is committed to fighting this crime and I am grateful for the hard work of our agents and the diligence of the Office of the Attorney General.”
In 2015, Shults proposed trips to Catholic parishioners to holy sites in countries such as Israel, Italy and Portugal. She collected payments averaging from $2,500 - $7,000 from victims and then canceled the trips without refunding the money. Through investigation, which began in September of 2015, FDLE identified 27 victims in North and Central Florida totaling in loss of over $106,000.
Shults was arrested on Friday.