SALEM, Ore. — A Salem travel agent is under investigation for fraud and theft after dozens of people say she took money for trips she never booked.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police are working together to investigate the allegations against Tricia Klock.
Many of Klock's former clients reached out to KGW. They spent hundreds to thousands of dollars booking big trips through Klock, or a travel agent working under her, only to find out their reservations didn't exist, were canceled at the last minute or the money they gave her was never used to pay for any part of their vacations.
'No remorse, just excuses'
Jessica Pearmine went to Klock to book a relaxing girls getaway that was months in the making.
“It was a girls trip so we were super excited to have fun,” Pearmine said.
But when she and her girlfriends showed up to three separate resorts in Mexico in August, Pearmine said they ran into problem after problem with their reservations.
She says rooms booked through Prestige Travel Agency were either canceled the day before or never booked to begin with.
“We had to put almost $4,900 on the credit card on top of [what we already paid] so we're out about $12,250 as a whole,” Pearmine said.
Text messages and emails show their travel agent back in Salem, Tricia Klock, told the group there was an issue with the travel "suppliers."
“It’s always the suppliers; in all these stories there’s always a middleman and there’s always these suppliers that are the problem, not her,” Pearmine added.
They'd get their money back for what they paid out of pocket while in Mexico, Klock said, but it could take six months. But Pearmine says they've never heard from Klock again.
"No remorse, just excuses after excuses," Pearmine said. "When we got there we dealt with it at the time but it’s just been heartache after coming home, dealing with everything has just been terrible.”
Pearmine posted about the experience on Facebook and dozens of people flooded the comments, sharing their stories. KGW talked with several of those people.
'Nothing in our name'
In May, Rachel Pairan went through Klock to book her 10-year anniversary trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. She was working with a travel agent under Klock, who told KGW that she wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing.
When Pairan went to make her September payment, the invoice was unavailable, so she contacted the travel agent she’d been working with, to find out what was wrong. The agent informed Pairan that her trip had likely never been booked and this was happening to many other people.
“I called the resort, sure enough, nothing in our name. Not that we ever received a confirmation email with a number or anything like that. So I guess that would have been a red flag. But never going with a travel agent, I didn’t know what’s right and what’s wrong,” Pairan told KGW. “Then I called the airline. Sure enough, nothing.”
The whole trip would have cost the Pairans $3,400; they were on a payment plan through Klock and already paid $2,400. Now, they can’t afford to take the trip they had planned for December.
“It meant a lot to us. It was our 10-year anniversary trip and we were really looking forward to time away from the kids, time in the sun. My husband has seasonal depression,” Pairan said.
'She's stealing joy, not just my dollars'
Sam Wahl is getting married in a little over a week. She thought she booked a beautiful, big beach house at the Oregon Coast through Prestige Travel for her bachelorette party. She and her fiancé spent $15,000 total between the beach house and two excursions for their honeymoon. They were told they could take advantage of a Las Vegas promotion Klock was running.
Wahl says she reached out to Klock to confirm her reservation after noticing the beach house was still available on the vacation rental website during her party dates. But Klock reassured her everything was fine. Wahl says a friend tipped her off just a few days before her party that talk was circulating about Klock.
“I’d already done my due diligence and checked in with her. So then we contacted the vacation rental directly and they said we have no reservation under you, Tricia Klock, Prestige Travel, nor my fiancé’s name. No reservation existed. They also, of course, had someone else booked in the house now,” Wahl told KGW.
“She's stealing from middle class people who work really hard to go on these vacations. She's stealing joy, not just my dollars.”
'I was just embarrassed'
David Ashley wanted a travel agent to get friends and family to Cabo for his wedding. Klock came recommended by a friend. He, too, wanted to hit the dollar amount to lock in the Vegas promotion.
He had already reserved the wedding at the resort in Cabo but Klock told him she could take over and help make the arrangements seamless.
"Everybody started booking. Several of my closest friends started booking immediately, most booked around $1,500 and up,” Ashley said.
Within days, Ashley said extra charges started popping up on his family and friends’ credit card statements.
“They were not only getting charged from Prestige Travel - which is Tricia’s - but also getting some secondary charges from places like United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Air Europa and Uber and all these different charges are popping up and nobody knows where they’re coming from. So first red flag goes up,” Ashley told KGW.
Ashley said Klock tried to reassure him she was placing holds on people’s credit cards; once the funds were paid off and the transactions were approved she would refund the money. Ashley wasn’t OK with that and didn’t find it fair to be paying double. Within two days, Ashley received his $4,500 deposit back from Prestige Travel – in what appears to be one of the rare times she refunded money to clients in recent months.
But the phone calls from family and friends didn’t stop. They continued to see random charges popping up that didn’t seem to be affiliated with their Mexico trip. Ashley felt something was fishy and told his friends to dispute the credit card charges and cancel their cards.
“I was just embarrassed. You know, my friends and family trusted me to get them to this location and to have a good time and celebrate our wedding, so to me I just felt compelled to fight for them on behalf of everybody.”
'She needs to be held accountable'
Each alleged victim said they booked with Klock and she took their money, but would never follow through on her promises. In a bind, once time came for their trips, the victims say they had to quickly pay for rooms or airfare.
When asked if they believe they’ll ever see a dime from Klock, those we interviewed said based on her track record, absolutely not.
“I assume it's been spent. I don't think she can refund anyone because I think it's gone,” Wahl said.
“I think she’s financing her own personal wants and needs,” Ashley added. “She needs to be held accountable.”
A number of alleged victims have filed complaints with the Oregon Attorney General's Office and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
The Oregon Secretary of State's website shows two travel agencies, an insurance company, and an LLC associated with Klock.
All of her businesses list an address on Hampden Lane NE in Salem, so a KGW crew went there to try to find Klock. A woman who we don’t believe to be Klock answered the door, but when she saw our news car, she shut it.
Klock has not been charged with a crime.
KGW attempted to contact Klock on multiple occasions via phone and email to get her side of the story. As of Wednesday afternoon, she has yet to respond.
“When I saw it was affecting so many people I knew we had to do something. We can’t keep letting this happen, she can’t keep getting away with it,” Pairan said.
After disputing charges through Paypal or their credit card companies, several of Klock's clients have been able to recoup some or all of what they lost. Many of them are still waiting on the disputes to be finalized.
Others, especially those who paid with debit cards, aren't so lucky.
While it’s a relief to receive thousands of dollars back into their bank accounts, her alleged victims say that’s not the point.
“If I've disputed my credit cards and get that money back she wins either way because she still gets our money, we get our money, and then nobody does anything about it and she continues to leave people high and dry with no place to stay or no airline tickets home,” Pearmine said.
Oregon State Police is asking for anyone with information or who thinks they might be a victim to reach out to Detective Jennifer Johnson at (503) 934-0355.
Several of the victims are working with an attorney to try and get their money back.