YORKTOWN, N.Y. – St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown was one of two Westchester parishes allegedly scammed out of thousands of dollars by a 77-year-old Las Vegas travel agent, according to a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
From 2014 to 2016, the two Catholic churches sent installment payments to Vincent Maffucci, the owner of ITC Tours. The funds were intended to pay for their parishioners to travel to Krakow, Poland, where the 2016 World Youth Day was being held.
World Youth Day, organized by the Catholic Church every two to three years, is held in different global locations and is attended by young people from around the world. Both of the churches had used Maffucci for successful trips in the past.
The churches were unnamed in the complaint, but Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, confirmed one of the churches was St. Patrick’s.
Maffucci told the churches the cost per parishioner ranged from $2,919 to $3,515 and would cover airfare, hotels, meals, sightseeing tours and more. About 69 people from the two churches signed up for the trip, and the churches made payments to Maffucci using FedEx and U.S. Mail.
Over the course of two years, the churches sent about $240,000 to Maffucci. Maffucci allegedly used about $227,000 of the funds for his own personal expenses, according to the complaint.
Prior to working with the churches, Maffucci’s company bank account had about $267.68. After the church money was deposited, Maffucci allegedly spent $43,000 on dining, fuel and clothing; withdrew about $94,000 in cash; and transferred $83,000 to his personal accounts.
On June 12, 2016, Maffucci allegedly sent an email to the churches, stating that he was cancelling the trip because of travel advisories and terrorism. He promised full refunds, but neither church has received any money back, according to the complaint. When the churches asked for a refund, Maffucci allegedly told the churches that the money was in Europe and he was working to receive a refund. He further told the churches that he was expecting a big inheritance and would use that money to reimburse them.
Investigators say Maffucci ran a similar scam years earlier on other Catholic churches seeking to send its parishioners to the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2014, Maffucci canceled the Brazil trip, citing a travel advisory, and warning of drugs, riots and incidents of violence in the city. He told the churches that their money was tied up in deposits and he was unable to provide refunds.
The churches involved sued Maffucci and, similarly, he testified at the time that his girlfriend was expecting money from her father’s estate that he planned to use to refund the parishes. Ultimately, “very few” churches received refunds, according to the complaint.
Maffucci has been charged with one count of mail fraud, a federal charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“Vincent Maffucci, a travel agent, allegedly collected over $240,000 from Westchester parishes, purportedly to organize a young people’s church tour to Europe,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim. “Instead of arranging the trip, Maffucci allegedly pocketed nearly all of the money and spent it on himself. Now Maffucci will face justice in federal court.”