MEDIA CONTACT:  Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. - Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes congratulated the County’s Division of Consumer Affairs today for helping to uncover an alleged fraud scheme perpetrated on would-be travelers.

Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. announced today that the owner of Mercer Travel & Cruises, Luis C. Macres, 54, of Robbinsville, was arrested Oct. 20 at his home by detectives with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Economic Crime Unit (ECU).

Macres is charged with two counts of third-degree theft by failure to make required disposition.  Third-degree crimes carry a maximum penalty of five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine.

The case was referred to the prosecutor’s Economic Crime Unit on October 7 by the Mercer County Division of Consumer Affairs.

“Our Division of Consumer Affairs works hard to prevent our residents from being scammed by fraud and the tricks used by those who prey on unsuspecting people in this economy,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “This case is a shining example of how we work closely with the Prosecutor’s Office to prevent these types of crimes and save people money.”

An investigation revealed that between April 20 and September 3, 2010, two Trenton women each made multiple cash payments to Macres for a five night/six day trip to Las Vegas in October.  In total, each victim paid approximately $800.

At the beginning of October, the women went to the travel agency, located on Front Street, but Macres could not provide any booking or confirmation information for the trip. It was then discovered that the victims’ reservations had been canceled due to nonpayment.  They asked for a full cash refund but Macres did not have the money on hand and asked them to return in two days.

Two days later, the victims went to Mercer Travel & Cruises but found the business closed.  To date, neither woman has received a refund nor were they able to go on their planned vacation.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez set Macres’ bail at $5,000 and required him to surrender his passport.

The investigation is ongoing. Additional victims or anyone with relevant information should contact prosecutor’s Detective Michele Russell at (609) 278-4865.

Bocchini credited ECU Detective Russell and Trenton Police Detective Matt Halaycio with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the County Division of Consumer Affairs for their valuable assistance.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor James Scott, chief of the ECU.

Despite having been charged, all persons are presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

As an arm of the Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Affairs is empowered to enforce NJSA 56:8-1 et seq. (The Consumer Fraud Act). All staff members are trained, tested and have passed all courses required by the Attorney General's Office and are certified.

The Mercer County office handles complaints from individual consumers against local businesses. It protects Mercer County consumers from fraudulent and unconscionable business practices, and also provides consumer counseling and complaint resolution services to approximately 350,000 Mercer County residents. While its jurisdiction is most Mercer County businesses, a referral service is available to assist all Mercer County consumers.

In contrast to the Better Business Bureau, which charges a fee for consumers to file a complaint and has no legal authority or power, the Mercer County Division of Consumer Affairs never charges a fee for any service rendered to consumers. The cost to taxpayers for the services of this department is about the cost of a postage stamp. Whenever a consumer is experiencing difficulty with a business, contacting the office can result in savings and returns of thousands of dollars.

If Mercer County residents believe they may have been victims of consumer fraud, they are urged to contact the Mercer County Division of Consumer Affairs at (609) 989-6671.