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Closing arguments made in travel agent's trial

June 25, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Former CW Travel Inc. manager Rebecca Calimer Price admitted Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court that she lied to get customers to write checks to her, but never intended to keep them from traveling.

Price, 30, of 32 E. Baltimore St. in Greencastle, Pa., is charged with five counts of felony theft related to allegations she stole more than $23,000 from her clients in late 1999 and early 2000.

Closing arguments were made Thursday. Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, who presided over the bench trial, said he would review the evidence and his notes before rendering his decision on July 6.

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Assistant State's Attorney General Paul Budlow, during a cross-examination of Price, pointed out that Kimberly Schoppert made a $2,300 check for a Caribbean cruise deposit payable to Price and Price deposited all but $735 into her personal bank account.

Budlow said the $735 was then put into the CW Travel bank account to pay for a personal trip Price made to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Price said she did not recall that.

Budlow said Price testified at a 2001 bankruptcy hearing that she deposited all funds from Enjoy Growing Older Inc., a senior citizens group that booked a cruise through Price, into the CW Travel account. That trip never came about.

Price testified Thursday that she cashed one check and deposited another into her personal account. She admitted that she lied to Rose Straley, the senior citizens group coordinator, in order to have the checks made out to her.

"What did you do with the money?" Budlow asked her.

"I don't know," she replied.

Defense attorney John Salvatore, in his closing argument, said that Price was overwhelmed when she was "essentially thrust into the managerial slot" at CW Travel.

Salvatore said Price expected guidance from the travel agency's owner but didn't get it. She was an "aggressive salesperson," who devised a voucher booklet system that enabled her to book four domestic first-class airline tickets at a price of $1,000, he said.

Budlow, in his closing argument, noted that Brendan O'Dowd, a business analyst with Airlines Reporting Commission, testified Wednesday that the voucher offer was "totally bogus" and would not be endorsed by any airline.

Budlow said that Price, by booking trips at overly discounted prices and not reporting the sales, was trying to repay herself from the CW Travel bank account for loans she took out to pay CW back for botched trips.

"She wanted out. And on the way out, she was gonna take as much money as she could get," Budlow said.

Salvatore, in his closing argument, said, "When people get into these types of situations, they still hope they'll be able to come up with enough money to pay for it."

"There's no crime here," he said.

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