LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced a $4.26 million court order Thursday against a travel agent that allegedly took money without providing a promised trip to Hawaii for two state marching bands.
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Collins Kilgore ordered Ope Saaga, the operator of Performing Hawaii Tours, to pay $3.86 million in civil penalties and $407,003.93 in restitution. Kilgore previously issued a default judgment against Saaga.
McDaniel sued Saaga last year, alleging he violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act when he failed to provide the travel services paid for by the east Arkansas-based Spirit of Arkansas band and the Fort Smith Southside High School band.
Saaga failed to respond to the state's lawsuit and was not present at the hearing on Thursday.
"Band members worked hard to raise enough money to pay for a trip to Hawaii, and this travel agent left them without the promised trip and without their money," McDaniel said. "I am grateful to the court for awarding restitution to these families, and my office will do everything it can to make sure the defendant fulfills his obligations under the order."
Saaga allegedly promised that band members would have a trip of a lifetime, but he later told Southside band officials he would be unable to meet his obligations. He allegedly promised to return the money, though no refunds were ever made.