Seniors Get Shafted In Oprah Show Ticket Scam - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/14/06-UPPER MARLBORO, Maryland

Seniors Get Shafted In Oprah Show Ticket Scam

A travel company operator pleaded guilty to bilking about 60 people, mostly senior citizens, by selling them bogus tickets and charter bus trips to Chicago, Illinois, to see the "Oprah Winfrey Show."

Terrance M. Hawkins, 45, has pleaded guilty to 17 counts of aggregate theft over $500.

He agreed to pay full restitution within two years, prosecutors said. Hawkins has paid back some victims and owes about $22,000.

Hawkins faces seven years in prison, but under a plea deal, most of his sentence will be suspended, prosecutors said. He also faces supervised probation for three years at a sentencing hearing September 29.

Operating his business under the names Royal Travel and Royal Stages Travel Group, prosecutors said Hawkins accepted payments between December 2004 and April 2005 for trips that were never delivered.

The "Oprah Winfrey Show" is free, with tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Hopefully, these victims will someday get their chance to see Oprah in person without having to worry about scam artists like Mr. Hawkins," State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said in a statement Monday.

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