Unbooked cruise leads to arrest

Published 1:54 pm Friday, June 3, 2011

By Jake Blocker
The Troy Messenger

When the 2011 senior graduating classes of Luverne High School and Crenshaw Christian Academy thought about their end-of-the-year senior trip, they thought about one thing – a Carnival Cruise Lines cruise.

After contacting Gail Holley, travel agent and owner of Southern Tours & Travel, Inc., parents and students thought the senior class trip was set.

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However, disappointment came when students and parents found out, “at the last minute,” the cruise which would have taken students to Jamaica, the Grand Cayman Islands and the Florida Keys had never been booked.

And that disappointment has led to the arrest of the Troy travel agent.

Holley surrendered to law enforcement officers on Monday. She has been charged with theft by deception first degree and was released on $5,000 bond.

Jeffrey Blackmon, parent of Luverne High School senior graduate Mackenzie Blackmon, said he and many other parents started paying their fees for the trip as early as August 2010. “Some of the people continued to make payments all the way up until May,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon said he found out Southern Tours & Travel Inc., was no longer in business only after he and other parents had given Holley more than $26,000 for a cruise they thought had already been booked.

Blackmon said after corresponding with representatives of Carnival Cruise Lines he realizes there is no reason to go through a travel agent.

“Carnival Cruise Lines, where they’re concerned, has no liability,” Blackmon said. “If I had to do it again, I would never use a travel agent where Carnival is concerned. They don’t consider there’s any recourse in it. Although they’re not at fault, she appeared to be an agent of record for them.”

Dead-end attempts of acquiring reimbursement eventually led to a warrant for Holley’s arrest issued Friday and Holley’s arrest on Monday.

Theft by deception first degree involves a person knowingly taking control of another person’s property with the intent of depriving the owner of the property, said Sgt. Benny Scarbrough of the Troy Police Department.

Scarbrough said approximately 40 students had hoped to participate in the Carnival Cruise Lines cruise.

In a press release, Scarbrough said Holley, who is 67 years old, turned herself in to police at the Troy Police Department.

Scarbrough said the investigation is on-going.