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Springfield, MO

Attorney general chases $360K for Willard band trip

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Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster late last week filed suit against a Utah-based travel business that allegedly stole $360,000 from the Willard High School Band.

The suit aims to return the funding, with which high school band members had intended to take a summer trip to Hawaii, according to a news release from Koster's office.

“Willard band members and their families worked hard to raise a great deal of money for this trip of a lifetime,” Koster said in the release. “My office will do all we can to try to get the money back for these kids.”

Koster has obtained a temporary restraining order against Calliope Saaga and his business, Present America Tours LLC, prohibiting him and the business from conducting business in Missouri and from advertising or selling travel services. Koster also is seeking civil penalties, and, according to the release, Greene County Judge Mark Powell has ordered that certain bank accounts in Saaga's name be frozen.

According to the suit, the Willard Band Boosters wired the funding to Saaga and Present America Tours between February 2011 and January 2012. Saaga had agreed to make travel arrangements for the band's trip - including airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, tours and travel insurance - and to provide complete travel schedules by the end of January to band officials.

Band officials claim they didn't receive the schedules, and attempts to reach Saaga afterward were unsuccessful. Saaga contacted the school in April, but allegedly failed to provide the trip itinerary or proof that the trip had been booked.

The restraining order, which lasts until at least May 10, also prohibits Saaga and his business from destroying travel-related sales documents from the past two years. A May 10 hearing would determine whether to extend the length of the restraining order, according to the release.

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