When Colonial Travel’s president Maria Klemyk turned herself in to the Farmington, Conn. police on an arrest warrant for fraud in August 2011, it was a moment a number of skating fans thought might never come to pass.
Klemyk, 43, was charged with one count of first-degree larceny for defrauding clients who paid her company a combined $90,000 for high-end VIP packages to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games which included hotel accommodations and tickets to all skating events and Category A tickets for the free skating finals. Klemyk failed to deliver any of these packages to a number of her clients.
In July 2009 Patricia Winter paid almost $18,000 for two tour packages. “One of the things I asked Maria was if she was buying the tickets from Cosport (the official olympic ticket agent in the U.S.). She said yes, she had a great working relationship with the company,” Winter explained.
in January 2010, when Winter had not heard from Klemyk, she reviewed the contract she had received from Colonial. “It said, ‘Within 21 days prior to the event you will receive your tour package.’ I called and emailed Maria repeatedly but never heard anything,” Winter said. “Just before U.S. nationals she wrote and said, ‘I will get everything to you right after this event.’
“In the meantime, I called the hotel we were supposed to be staying at to make some special arrangements. They told me that I had no reservation. I called Maria repeatedly and finally I emailed Cosport and told them I was trying to confirm a package.
“Literally 20 minutes later Jean-paul Modde, the president of Cosport, called and told me they had no reservation for me. When I told him that I had paid for this in July 2009 he explained that Cosport had ceased doing business with Colonial in June 2009 because it had failed to pay for $100,000 worth of packages it had previously reserved.”
Modde also explained that Klemyk could never have obtained Category a tickets for the free skating events because Cosport only sold that level of ticket to its most important corporate clients.
Winter also learned that Klemyk was paid a 6% commission by Cosport for all the packages she sold. One of the terms of Cosport’s contract with Klemyk required that she sell the packages for exactly what she paid for them. “Instead, she was marking up the packages by about 20%,” Winter said.
The story does not end there. Undeterred by the Olympic debacle, Klemyk continued to sell packages to the 2010 World Champion-ships in Torino, Italy. Just days before she and her 35 clients were scheduled to head to Italy, Klemyk sent them an email advising that she was canceling the trip.
Among other things contained in that email Klemyk claimed there were only three people involved in the Olympic fiasco. She also wrote that the party who decided to escalate the matter had made a big mistake.
The Farmington, Conn. Police Department disagreed. They began investigating Klemyk after receiving complaints from 13 individuals.
“It is a Class B felony,” Detective Brian Killiany told IFS. “Klemyk has been charged with larceny in the first degree, which potentially carries a jail sentence.
“I was not sure that the State Attorney would entertain this case or if he would consider it a breach of contract, but I determined there was more of a criminal aspect to this. The crux of this crime is the target market. The 2010 olympics was to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for these people and that was taken away. I heard the stories over and over again, and there was a consistency to them.
“Speaking with Jean-Paul Modde only cemented my suspicions,” Killiany continued. “Klemyk had a 34-36 week gap from the time she knew these tickets were going to be canceled by Cosport, and that is where I think there is a big issue. She had a large amount of time to notify clients that she had mismanaged their funds or whatever, but she waited until a week to 10 days prior to the Olympics to advise her clients they were not going to the Games.”
Killiany said the cases have been consolidated into one count. “The reason for the single charge is that I believe it is an ongoing illegal enterprise, so rather than making it a number of smaller larcenies they were lumped together. The court probably would have consolidated it anyway,” he explained.
“Mrs. Klemyk has refused to be interviewed by me and there are more investigations pending.”
Klemyk and her husband filed for personal bankruptcy in March 2009 shortly after the bank foreclosed on their home. Both reported they were $1.5 million in debt.
Though some people were able to get their money back through their credit card companies, those who paid by check received only a partial payment or nothing at all.
Klemyk was scheduled to appear in court for a plea hearing Oct. 18. That court date was subsequently adjourned to Nov. 16.
Winter said she knows at least 75 people who have been affected by this fraud. “I had been dreaming of going to the Olympics for 50 years, but there was no way I could get tickets or a hotel at that late date,” she said. “That dream was destroyed. I just want to make sure that this never happens again to any other skating fan.”
Originally published in December 2011