Travel agent jailed for duping cruise passengers

Posted at 8:10 AM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-18 09:37:13-04

A Pinellas County travel agent is facing serious charges, after law enforcement officials said Janet Bender took cash for discount vacations.

Her customers said they actually got nothing in return.

"She was just as sweet as she could be, and she said she could get us onboard credit, and a phone call from Mickey Mouse for my youngest grandson when we got onboard," cruise passenger Sheri Phillips said referring to Bender.

It was supposed to be the Disney cruise Phillips had been waiting for. But as luck would have it, every promise made by Bender was a lie, detectives said.

“$5,700, and we’re not rich people,” Philips said. “We saved for this. It was a bucket list item."

For months Phillips was led to believe she had purchased a Disney cruise from Bender through Cruise One, Philips said.

But when the date rolled around to take the trip, Bender was nowhere to be found.

Philips said she received emails, promises and invoices from Bender, suggesting that everything was in order.

Investigators said Bender not only took Philips’ money for the cruise. She also didn't book the cruise, instead fake documents were created to throw victims off her scent.

Pamela Larson had known Bender for 20 years and booked cruises with her before. Larson said when her $3,700 disappeared, she was shocked to say the least.

"We finally kept calling her and saying we need these vouchers," Larson said.

The vouchers that were delivered were invalid.

Action News reached out to Cruise One for comment, but did not receive a response before this report.

We also learned Bender has since been let go.

But at this point, neither victim is expecting to get her money back.