55ºF

Businessman facing federal charges for alleged scheme to defraud high school students

George Alberto Barragan, 45, faces up to 20 years in prison

A businessman from Cibolo was indicted on federal charges Tuesday in connection with an alleged scheme to steal money from high school students who paid for group travel opportunities to celebrate graduations, according to U.S. attorney John F. Bash and FBI agent Christopher Combs.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed charges on 45-year-old George Alberto Barragan with three counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to authorities.

According to the indictment, Barragan owned and operated several travel agencies, including EB Worldwide, Exhibit Tours and Senior Grad Trips.

He was the sole individual in charge of negotiating and contracting with customers, as well as booking and arranging travel accommodations for large groups.

Groups who were victims would pay Barragan by check or online payment portal either in full up front, or provide an initial deposit with a deadline by which payment needed to be completed. Once in possession of funds, Barragan would make reservations and provide confirmations and itineraries to victims purporting to show that desired travel arrangements had been arranged.

Prior to travel, Barragan would cancel reservations and receive a refund of money into an account he controlled. Barragan never notified his victims of the cancellations.

In at least two instances, large groups of students arrived at the designated time and location to begin their trip, only to find out that their trip had been cancelled. The indictment also specifically alleged that in April 2018, Barragan illegally used a credit card number and personal information provided by a customer to make a $6,000 payment for a set of hotel rooms in San Diego, California, for an unrelated client.

According to the indictment, Barragan perpetrated his scheme on no less than six different high school student groups between May 2015 and June 2018, resulting in an approximate total loss of $160,000.

Following his initial appearance, Barragan was released on bond. Upon conviction, Barragan faces up to a mandatory two years in federal prison for aggravated identity theft and up to 20 years in federal prison on each of the remaining mail and wire fraud charges.