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No-Contest Plea by Travel Agent to Grand Theft

October 27, 1994|JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Travel agent Susan Reindl, who pleaded no contest to 13 charges of grand theft for bilking South Bay residents of more than $450,000, should have to pay back all the money, some angry victims say.

Reindl agreed Monday to pay $150,904 to about 400 clients who lost trip deposits. But Harbor City resident Teresa Buckley, who said 14 of her relatives lost money to the travel agent, called $150,000 a drop in the bucket compared to the amount taken by Reindl.

Reindl suddenly closed the doors of her Apollo travel agency on Western Avenue in Rancho Palos Verdes in 1991 and kept more than $450,000 in trip deposits. She left one newly married couple without tickets to their honeymoon and stranded a family that had planned a cruise to Mexico.

After a three-year investigation, deputies arrested Reindl in June at a Harbor City travel agency where she was working. The arrest warrant listed 74 felonies and she faced 10 years in prison if convicted.

Under the plea bargain reached Monday, Reindl will be sentenced Nov. 21 and could receive up to 16 months in prison.

Her attorney, Deputy Public Defender John M. Powers, said Reindl's former clients should each receive about a third of the money they lost.

"Obviously, she has at least, in some ways, acknowledged her guilt rather than try to blame it on someone else," Powers said.

Reindl, who has filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy, claimed earlier that her business folded because an employee embezzled close to $100,000 and because travel business plummeted during the Gulf War.

Powers reiterated those claims this week but added that "she should have declared bankruptcy a year earlier."

Reindl has continued to live and work as a travel agent in the South Bay, but Powers said she did not line her pockets with the money from Apollo.

"As far as I know, she is totally indigent," he said. "(She) has nothing."

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