FROM STAFF REPORTS

The owner of a local travel agency faces six felony charges in connection with a scheme to defraud a group of seniors following an investigation by the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office.

Charles Johnson

Charles Eric Johnson, 43, of Birchwood Road, Statesville, faces six counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. Sheriff Darren Campbell announced his arrest in a news release.

The ICSO began investigating on July 26, 2023, after an 83-year-old woman reported that she and other seniors had been scammed after booking an Alaskan cruise through a travel agency located in Statesville.

One day before the scheduled departure date the owner of the travel agency cancelled the trip due to personal reasons, the woman said, and the owner refused to issue an immediate refund.

The case was assigned to Detective J. Roberts, who is assigned to the ICSO Economic Crimes Unit.

During the investigation, the detective identified Charles Johnson as the owner of Carolina Blue Tours.

Throughout the investigation, additional victims were identified and interviewed. The detective determined that Johnson had taken payments in excess of $25,000 from all of the involved individuals, according to the news release.

Search warrants were obtained for Johnson’s financial records as well as his company’s account history with Royal Caribbean, the cruise line hosting the Alaskan cruise.

Upon receiving and reviewing Johnson’s financial records, Detective Roberts discovered that the suspect had been transferring business funds into his personal accounts and funding personal trips from his business account, the sheriff said.

The investigation also revealed that Johnson had knowingly filed a fraudulent dispute with his financial institution in which he denied taking a personal trip to New York, which led to him to receive approximately $4,030 as a result of the fraudulent dispute, according to the news release.

During a review of Johnson’s account history with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, the detective determined Johnson had never booked reservations for all of the victims who had paid for the Alaskan cruise, according to the news release.

The detective also determined that Johnson went on the cruise himself after informing all of the victims that the cruise had been cancelled, the sheriff said.

As a result of the investigation, Johnson was arrested on December 19, 2023, and transported to the Iredell County Detention Center. Magistrate Chambers set his bond at $6,000.

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