Victims of Bradenton cruise package scam speak out

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MANATEE COUNTY - Victims of a Bradenton scam are speaking out, saying they want justice after suspected con artists swindled them out of hundreds of dollars.

Victims of the scam say they were offered a deal that sounded too good to be true: a luxury vacation on a Royal Caribbean cruise for just $200. They admit they were duped and made a mistake, but are frustrated after they say Bradenton Police had the suspects in hand, and then let them go.

Holly Harrell works hard tending bar at the Old Main Pub.  So when two men came inside offering to sell her a four-night Royal Caribbean cruise for just $200, she couldn't resist.  "Usually if it's too good to be true it is, and I knew better and I did it anyways," said Harrell.

She says she had purchased legitimate products from the men before, and that they were convincing enough that she paid up on the spot.

The same thing happened right across the street to Kevin Truex.  "They basically had every right answer you'd want to hear from them," said Truex.

He says he knows of nine others who fell for the scheme, too. Both victims soon realized the trip was a trick.

When Harrell ran into the men at a St. Patrick's Day block party, she confronted the two and called over police.  "I told him that he either needed to give me my money back or come talk to the law," said Harrell.  "And when I brought him up to a police officer that's when they then informed me there was nothing they could do unless the guy had a warrant for his arrest, even though he was caught red-handed."

A Bradenton Police officer told ABC 7 on the phone that an arrest couldn't be made because the investigation hadn't been started by a detective, and that at the time there was no way of knowing whether the suspects were lying, or working for a legitimate travel company.

"It doesn't matter if it's a dollar or two million dollars, its hard working money and they stole, it's just wrong," said Harrell.

Experts say avoiding scams really comes down to keeping your wits about you and using common sense It goes back to that old adage if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

Kevin Truex says for a friend of his, all it took was a quick internet search to realize the cruise didn't exist.

If you have any information as to where these suspects may be, you're urged to call Bradenton Police Department Detective Troy Masterson at 941-932-9300 Ext. 373.