Man Who Said He'd Fund Student Trips Already Under Investigation

What could be a campaign trip scam may not be man's first brush with the law.


The man who might or might not have tricked hundreds of students in Massachusetts and California into thinking they would get free flights to campaign for Sen. Barack Obama in swing states is already being investigated by Minnesota police and the Airlines Reporting Corp. for fraud, the Daily Californian reports.

Over the past month, a man had promised Harvard, UC-Berkeley, and other students free flights to swing states, supposedly bought with frequent-flier miles donated by expats in Italy. But just before they were to embark on their travels, the students found that no such flights had been booked andthat the man, who said he lived in Italy, was nearly impossible to reach.

Now the Californian reports that police in Minnesota have been investigating a man who has the same name as that campaign trip organizer, who worked for a small travel agency in Savage, Minn., as a subcontractor in January 2007. At that time, he told the travel agency that he arranged hotel reservations, flights, and bus tours for university students. He received a monthly sales commission from the agency.

But after a year, the agency grew suspicious when the man began requesting more commission, and later his credit card payments bounced back to the agency. Police began investigating him in April.

In addition to the Minnesota incident and the more recent campaign fiasco, a man with the same name as the campaign trip organizer is wanted for at least one felony parole violation in Colorado, the Californian reports.

Officials believe the man's plan with the Obama campaigners fell through after his application to be an independent contractor for TravelQuest, another Minnesota travel agency, was rejected more than a week ago. They suspect he would have used his position to book flights for the students and later to steal the sales commission from the agency. "He has 700 names and flights to book that he could use to parlay and try to scam another travel agency," said an organizer from Harvard.

Minnesota police have contacted authorities in Italy but do not know where the suspect lives.