European trip agent indicted for embezzlement

Published 1:03 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2015

By Diana McFarland

News editor

The travel agent at the center of a failed trip to Europe with parents and students from Smithfield High School was indicted last week on embezzlement charges.

Augustine Acheampong of Lorton was indicted by an Isle of Wight grand jury Nov. 9 on nine counts of embezzlement, according to the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office. At the same time, his bank assets were frozen pending the outcome of the case, and a complaint was filed with the Virginia Attorney General’s office. 

Acheampong operated Grade A Travel and had contracted with a group of Smithfield students, families and teachers for an 11-day trip to Europe. When the trip was cancelled, parents tried to get their money back, to no avail. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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Paula Manson, her husband Barry and daughter Alexis, were all scheduled to take the trip in June. Instead, the Manson’s are out more than $10,000.

“It was a long time coming,” said Paula Manson when she heard the news of Acheampong’s arrest. Manson had worked tirelessly compiling information, contacting the press and pursuing criminal charges against Acheampong.

Manson said her family is also trying to recover some of their money through the insurance company connected to the trip but their claims continue to be denied.

Manson said the insurance cost about $1,000.

As for getting her money back from Acheampong, Manson is unsure about that, given that his bank accounts are frozen.

“I’d like to think we will, but there’s no guarantee,” Manson said.

Overall, Manson wants Acheampong stopped.

“As long as they stop him from soliciting the kids and the teachers,” she said.

Grade A Travel solicited business from schools, teachers and children to travel abroad, according to the Smithfield parents.

Earlier this year, a group from Isle of Wight Academy had a trip arranged by Acheampong to Puerto Rico. That trip went well. According to Manson, Smithfield teachers and parents had also successfully worked with Acheampong in the past and that’s why they didn’t feel the need to look further into the agent or his business as plans for the failed trip progressed.

However, Acheampong was convicted in April of the sale and distribution of marijuana in Fairfax County Circuit Court. He was sentenced July 17 to a suspended 18-month prison sentence, as well as being under supervised probation, according to court officials.

On Friday, Acheampong turned himself into Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office and was released on a $5,000 bond. His arraignment was scheduled for today, Nov. 18 in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court.

Acheampong is also under investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, as one of the high schools there was also involved in the trip. No charges have been filed yet, but may be pending, said Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden. {/mprestriction}