Utah travel agent accused of stealing from Fort Smith band

Posted: June 9, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.

A travel agent from Utah has been charged with stealing $272,500 from the Southside High School band, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Connor Eldridge.

Calliope “Ope” Rocky Saaga, 40, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, was arraigned Monday in United States Magistrate Court on a three-count indictment for wire fraud, the news release states.

In August 2011, Saaga was doing business through his companies, Performing Hawaii Tours, LLC, and Present America Tours, LLC, when he contracted with the Southside High School Band in Fort Smith to provide travel arrangements for a 2012 trip to Hawaii, according to the release.

The band wired him three payments between 2011 and February 2012. Officials said that Saaga used the money for personal use and the band trip was subsequently canceled. The scheme resulted in defrauding the Fort Smith Southside Band, students and parents of approximately $272,500.

On May 7, Saaga was indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering in Springfield, Mo., for stealing $360,000 from the Williard High School Band Boosters.

If convicted, Saaga’s sentence will be determined by the court after a review of factors unique to this case such as his prior criminal record, Saaga’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violations.