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Cablegate: Argentina: Vacations724 Breaks Its Silence to Intimidate

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SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: VACATIONS724 BREAKS ITS SILENCE TO INTIMIDATE
TRAVELER; POST MEETS WITH GOA ON ADVERTISING ISSUE

REF: BUENOS AIRES 12958; GUAYAQUIL 328

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Argentine traveler Carolina Millone reports that
on-line travel agency Vacations724.com tries to intimate her after
she goes public with their scam. Per reftels Buenos Aires FPU shares
new information on Vacations724.com and its alleged owners. END
SUMMARY.

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Uncovering Who is Behind the Scam
----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Refs A and B outline the travel scam perpetrated by the
virtual travel agency, Vacations724.com. During its preliminary
investigation (reftel A), FPU interviewed Argentine traveler Carolina
Millone, who posted multiple complaints in online travel forums such
as Trip Advisor describing how she was scammed. In November, a
former Vacations724.com employee contacted Millone, claiming that she
had worked for Vacations724.com in the U.S. for two years before
returning to Argentina, and that her cousin still works for them. For
security concerns, Millone would not share the woman's name with FPU
but did share the following information.

3. (SBU) Vacations724.com's legal name is "Premier Destino." It is
currently located at 600 NE 36 St, Miami, Suite C1, FL 33137. The
alleged owner, Amaury Ciro Martinez, born on December 9, 1961, is
married to illegal resident Soledad Martinez (Vacations724.com web
domain is registered under her name). They reside at 4500 Sabal Palm
Road, Miami, FL, the same address listed on several letters presented
to post by Vacations724.com visa applicants. The former employee
said that Vacations724.com hires illegal residents who use false
names to sign their letters and emails. Employees include the
following allegedly illegal aliens: Colombian national and signing
manager Frida Mabel, alias Mabel Munera; and Peruvian nationals Sandy
Rivas and Lourdes Cedeo (mother and daughter). The Miami Dade
Criminal and Civil infractions web page shows that Amaury Martinez
was convicted for assault and battery, grand theft in the 1st degree,
burglary, cocaine possession, and resisting arrest.

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Vacations724 Intimidates Ms. Millone
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3. (SBU) In December, the alleged vice president of Vacations724.com
Gustavo Garcia (also known as "El Che") contacted Millone via email
telling her he would reimburse her money, if she agreed to remove all
previous adverse posts on the internet within 24 hours and cease
posting further complaints. Millone agreed and provided Garcia with
a credit card number to process the reimbursement, which never
arrived. She reported this through the online forum and received
threatening responses from the agency through the forum. A few days
later, Garcia called Millone telling her he knew that she had
contacted the U.S. Embassy, and sent two emails to FPU which bounced
back because of the wrong email address. He also knew that their
previous employee had contacted her, and that she had made travel
plans for January 2010. As this information is true, Millone
believes Vacations724.com had hacked into her computer. Garcia
threatened her that "La Liga" would be waiting for her when she
arrived in Miami because she had posted in a public forum that
Vacations724.com staff were illegal aliens. Millone then began
receiving late night phone calls from men requesting sexual services.
One of them referred her to the Miami-registered web page where her
contact information was posted as someone offering these type of
services. Millone had to contact the webmaster to have her
information removed. After these incidents Millone told FPU that she
was afraid and would stop posting information against
Vacations724.com.

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Meeting with GOA Produces Cooperation
-------------------------------------

5. (U) On December 30, FPM and Senior FPU investigator met with
Ricardo Maldonado, director of travel agency licening at the GOA
Secretariat of Tourism to discuss the scam and to seek advice for
scammed applicants. Dr. Ricardo stated that travel agencies that
wish to advertise in Argentina must have a local, legal business in
Argentina and must receive permission from his office. He suggested
that Vacations724.com could be accused of false or misleading
advertising, which constitutes a crime under Argentine penal code.
He recommended FPU meet with the Argentina equivalent of the Better

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Business Bureau, Defensa del Consumidor, to discuss further. He also
offered to post information on his department's official website
warning potential travelers to be careful when purchasing travel via
the web. FPU will meet with Dr. Maldonado and a representative from
Defensa del Consumidor after they have reviewed FPU information.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Given Vacations724.com intimidation tactics and
questionable business practices alleged by Ms. Millone, Buenos Aires
wished to share this information with FPP and posts in case more such
scams come to light. END COMMENT.
MARTINEZ

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