Travel agent owes Smithfield students more than $30K

Augustine Acheampong

ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. (WAVY) — A travel agent accused of booking a bogus trip for Smithfield High School students will wait a couple weeks to find out his punishment.

Augustine Acheampong faces one to 20 years in prison on each of 10 charges.

WAVY’s Jason Marks reported in February that Acheampong accepted a plea deal during a recent court hearing.  He took an Alfrod plea meaning he didn’t admit guilt, but admitted there would be enough evidence to convict him.

“It has been extremely frustrating,” said mother Paula Manson.  “It has been a long journey.”

It wasn’t the journey Smithfield High students expected.  Instead of a trip to Europe they ended up with dozens of court appearances in a case that doesn’t seem to want to finish.

“There is never any conclusion,” added former Smithfield High student Claire Piatak.  “It is just continuing on and going for so long.”

Acheampong was charged with 65 counts of embezzlement in total, but 55 of those counts were nolle prossed — or withdrawn — as a part of the deal.

Travel agent accused of stealing thousands served more felony charges

In 2015, students paid Northern Virginia travel agent Augustine Acheampong thousands of dollars to take a trip to Europe.  A day before they were set to leave Acheampong canceled.  He never returned the money.

“It was extremely disappointing, because we had been planning it for over a year at that point,” said former Smithfield High student Alexis Manson.  “We were supposed to leave the next day.  We were packing and getting ready to go so it was a big disappointment.”

“He has no remorse over this,” Paula Manson added.  “He doesn’t think he has done anything wrong.”

Wednesday in court, 10 On Your Side learned he still owed the students $31,000.  His attorney told the judge they could pay most of the money today, but needed more time.  The judge decided to delay sentencing for him to come up with the rest.  He will now be sentenced June 21st.

“You don’t really know if he is actually going to pay us or if the money is even there,” Piatak said?  “Are they just trying to put off the inevitable?”

Even if the money is all paid back prosecutors say they will still push for some jail time.

“He needs to realize that he has done wrong, because I don’t think he realizes that yet,” Alexis Manson added.