More charges for travel agent indicted for allegedly scamming Smithfield students

Posted at 12:51 PM, Nov 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-18 12:25:18-05

Isle of Wight County, Va. - The man accused of scamming Smithfield High School students and their families appeared in court on Wednesday morning where he was served several warrants from another county for scamming more students.

In early November, a Grand Jury in Isle of Wight County returned nine indictments for embezzlement against Augustine Acheampong.

Acheampong operated Grade A Travel in Lorton, Virginia and had been in contact with more than a dozen students from Smithfield High School's Spanish program about a trip to Europe over the summer.

Augustine Acheampong

Augustine Acheampong

Kristie Lanford told NewsChannel 3 back in September that she and her daughter were among the scammed victims who paid Acheampong thousands of dollars.

Two days before they were set to leave, they received a phone call from Acheampong, notifying them that the trip was canceled and that he would be giving them a refund.

Parents: Smithfield high school students’ trip canceled because of travel agent

The refund never came. That's when the victims reached out to authorities for help.

Complaints were filed with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff's Office and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection in Richmond.

As a result of the Isle of Wight County Sheriff's Office investigation, indictments were sought against Acheampong. Investigators have also issued court orders to financial institutions to freeze financial assets held by Acheampong until the lawsuit is settled.

Lieutenant Tommy Potter tells NewsChannel 3 that Acheampong may have transferred money from business accounts to personal accounts. He says Acheampong also was not supposed to leave the country because he pleaded guilty to a 2014 felony drug charge.

"With that guilty plea, he could not leave the country," says Lieutenant Potter. "He pleaded guilty to this charge before the scheduled date he was supposed to take students on this trip."

Lieutenant Potter says two other schools in Virginia were also scheduled to go on the trip. Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke decided to re-schedule.

"My understanding from talking to families and officials with that school, that trip was an utter nightmare. They went, there were accommodations that were supposed to be booked that were never booked, they were stranded in airports," he says.

Acheampong turned himself in to the Isle of Wight County Sheriff's Office on Friday morning. He was processed and taken before a magistrate who then released him on a $5,000 bond.

His hearing on the Isle of Wight embezzlement charges Wednesday was continued but while he was in court, he was served with seven outstanding warrants for embezzlement from Warren County. Those charges also reportedly involve students.

He was immediately denied bond for those and taken to jail.

Investigators are still looking into the embezzlement cases and additional charges may be forthcoming. They are currently working with state police to analyze Acheampong's financial records.

Lieutenant Potter says federal investigators have also expressed interest in Acheampong's case.