Travel agent accused of scamming Smithfield students enters not guilty plea

Posted at 11:22 AM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 15:58:11-05

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 entered a not guilty plea on ten counts of embezzlement.

Acheampong’s attorney, Bryan Block, says the amount owed to students is more than $50,000. Block is hoping to work out an agreement with prosecutors by April 13th, to which they will drop the criminal charges and handle this as a “breach of contract” matter instead of an embezzlement. The attorney says Acheampong is prepared to pay the students back if they reach this agreement.

Acheampong’s next trial date is set for May 26 and 27.

In early November 2015, a Grand Jury in Isle of Wight County returned indictments for embezzlement against Augustine Acheampong. He wasserved several warrants from another county for scamming more students.

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 2015 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.

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The refund never came and 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.

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

Investigators worked with state police to analyze Acheampong’s financial records.

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