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The Boston Globe

Metro

Travel agent charged in larceny

Victims mostly from Chinatown

The owner of a travel agency in Boston’s Chinatown section has been indicted on charges of fleecing immigrant clients of approximately $90,000 in fees for schemes involving airline tickets and citizenship applications, the attorney general’s ­office said Monday.

May Woo Lei, 40, owner of Sky Energy Travel Inc., is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 21 in Suffolk Superior Court on 20 counts of larceny over $250 and four counts of larceny over $250 on a person age 60 or over, Coakley’s office said in a statement.

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Woo could not be reached by phone Monday night. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Authorities allege that in one scheme, Woo, of Boston, told Chinese immigrants that she could assist them for a fee in applying for US citizenship, even though they did not meet the English language requirement.

Woo allegedly told the immigrants that she would have a doctor issue certification to waive the language requirement, and she promised to help translate at their citizenship inter­views, the statement said.

However, US Citizenship and Immigration Services never received applications from any of the 16 alleged victims, who authorities say were ­defrauded of a combined total of nearly $50,000 between ­November 2009 and February 2012, said Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office.

In the second scheme, prosecutors said, Woo allegedly charged several clients a combined total of more than $40,000 for airline tickets and either never booked the trips or ticket wholesalers canceled the reservations for nonpayment

The Chinese Progressive ­Association, a Boston advocacy group, referred many complaints about Woo to prosecutors.

Mark Liu, the association’s deputy director, welcomed the news of Woo’s indictment in a phone interview Monday night.

“We think it’s a good step ­towards justice for the victims of May Woo,” Liu said. “We’ve had over 50 people come to our office with complaints about getting cheated by her.”

Asked about the scope of Woo’s alleged fraud, Liu said, “I don’t think we’ve seen a case, at least not to this extent, before in the Chinese community.”

Sky Energy Travel, located on Kneeland Street, was dissolved in June, and Coakley’s ­office began investigating Woo that same month.

In August, Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham reported on the travails of several of Woo’s alleged victims, including Nya Lain Mon, 68, a retired ­mechanic from Burma who said he paid Woo $4,500 in cash for airline tickets to Rangoon, and found no booking in his name.

“She says the tickets will be there tomorrow, next day, next week,” Mon said at the time. “I was never cheated before.”

When Abraham contacted Woo to inquire about her clients’ complaints, she said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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