handcuffs on money

A Louisiana woman has been sentenced to nine years in prison for her role in selling bogus vacation packages to the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

Nakesia Washington, of Harvey, La., received a 15-year sentence with six years suspended after she admitted scamming 98 tourists – all from out of state – over $80,000.

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Operating through her agency, OBL Travel, Washington sold vacation packages that included festival tickets, VIP passes and hotel rooms. Airfare apparently was not included, so when the tourists arrived in New Orleans they found no tickets, no passes, no lodging – and no Nakesia Washington.

WVUE-TV reported that Washington pleaded guilty Wednesday, July 3. State District Judge Ellen Shrier Kovach sentenced her and ordered her to pay restitution. A restitution hearing is scheduled July 11.

The Essence Fest is one of the premier music festivals in the country. Started in 1995 as a one-time event to honor the 25th anniversary of Essence Magazine, the festival has been a staple of African-American culture and music ever since.

Earlier this year, a Florida woman and her friends were scammed by a fake travel agency.

It’s just another reminder to make sure you find a trusted travel agent and take the necessary steps to make sure you avoid being scammed.