Former travel agent gets probation in scam
When Honolulu resident Gladys Chun left on a trip for China in September 1998, she recalls vividly her travel agent, Gautier Tienni Fang, telling her, "Have a good trip."
Little did she know at the time that Fang never sent the money she paid him, and she was left stranded in Beijing with no choice but to pay an additional $3,221 to continue the tour. Seven years later she is still waiting for her money back.
Fang, 73, was sentenced yesterday in Circuit Court to five years' probation with credit for 244 days he served in prison following his arrest in 2004. He pleaded guilty in June to nine counts of second-degree theft involving approximately $50,000 and no contest to money laundering.
But yesterday, after earlier attempts to withdraw his pleas and dismiss the charges against him were shot down, Fang continued to profess his innocence. He expressed confidence that he will prevail on appeal and that the charges will eventually be dismissed.
Circuit Judge Michael Town rejected Fang's request for a deferral of his plea, agreeing with prosecutors that Fang is in denial and will not admit to wrongdoing.
"I hope in good conscience he's not going to do it again, but I can't say he won't, given the record," Town said.
Chun, one of nine victims, said she was annoyed to learn upon arrival in Beijing that the tour had not been paid for, "but what the heck, I was already there so I just paid it and moved on."
When she returned to Honolulu later that month, she confronted Fang, who admitted he did not send the money to the travel service in China. Instead, he said he invested the money, believing they would pay off and enable him to pay the tour operators in China.
She confronted Fang again at a hearing last week, but he maintained he was not to blame.
"I would like to see this process come to a close," Chun told the court. "He remains arrogant and has not admitted anything."
Deputy prosecutor Marvin Rampey said prison is appropriate in this case, given Fang's refusal to accept responsibility, but asked for five years' probation and restitution if the court would not order incarceration.
Attorney Jerry Wilson, a standby counsel to Fang, who chose to represent himself, said because of Fang's age, health and absence of prior record, he is eligible for a deferral.
Fang calls himself a terrible businessman who had no intention of cheating his customers and is remorseful, Wilson said. Fang has been in the travel business for years and planned many successful tours until this happened in 1998, Wilson said.
Town ordered Fang to repay the $3,221 owed to Chun and will consider other restitution amounts at a March 20 hearing.
Customers who paid for their tours with credit cards received some reimbursement from their credit card companies. At least three customers, including Chun, have yet to be reimbursed, Rampey said.