Woman charged in travel scheme against Maryland church

Posted at 1:23 PM, Aug 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 13:31:39-04

A New York woman was charged with stealing nearly $35,000 from a church group in Caroline County.

Maryland State Police said 52-year-old Carmela Evett Bolden of Elmsford, New York, was arrested and charged with theft after members of the Greater New Hope Church and Ministries in Preston, Md. weren’t able to go on a cruise they’d paid for.

Church members paid Bolden, owner of a travel agency called R U Ready To Travel, a total of $34,859 in monthly installments from December 2015 and September 2016. The money, sent by certified check, was supposed to go toward a couples cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Police said Bolden emailed a church representative on Aug. 28, 2016 saying she’d received the final payment, and church records indicated she’d cashed the checks. Bolden then told the church representative there was a problem with their prior reservations and booked new ones for the 34 church members.

An examination of Norwegian Cruise Lines showed that payments made to Bolden hadn’t gone toward the reservations, which were subsequently cancelled by the cruise line. No payments were ever made toward the new reservations booked by Bolden, according to police.

The group ended up booking the trip directly with Norwegian Cruise Lines themselves with help from church funds and personal money provided by the pastor.

Bolden was arrested on July 6 by Westchester County Police in New York and extradited back to Maryland, where she appeared before the Caroline County District Court commissioner.

She was charged with 34 counts of theft of $1,000 to $10,000 and one count of theft scheme of $10,000 to $100,000, and was released after posting $5,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 10 in Caroline County District Court.

Maryland State Police said customers have filed several complaints against R U Ready To Travel through the Better Business Bureau. Anyone who may have had a similar incident with the company is asked to contact their local state police barrack.