Ex-travel agent who stole nearly $123K from customers gets 1-year jail term

Ligaya Baldugo in court
Ligaya Baldugo in court
Numeriano Diwa
Numeriano Diwa

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former travel agent convicted of stealing money from nearly 50 of her customers was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation Wednesday.

Ligaya Baldugo says she's sorry. But the victims, whose emotions range from anger to sadness, say they just want their money back.

Numeriano Diwa, 76, held a hand to his chest, still devastated that Ligaya Baldugo of Coloma's Travel Service took his money but did not deliver on his airline tickets in 2008. After undergoing heart surgery, he was desperate to go to the Philippines.

"Visit my parents and my brother and sister because my surgery," the theft victim said. "So they get my money."

Prosecutors say Baldugo stole $122,959 from 49 customers who went to her for travel arrangements. She printed receipts and itineraries for them, but didn't follow through with the airlines.

"When many of these victims show up at the airport and are told no tickets were purchased, no reservations were made, and they're left basically stranded at the airport...in our view this defendant did cause serious harm," Chris Van Marter, deputy prosecutor, said.

Baldugo's attorney says his client, who has no criminal history, had started bouncing checks to different wholesalers and was struggling to keep the business afloat. He says none of the stolen money went into her pocket.

"It became very difficult to climb out of it," Donald Wilkerson, defense attorney, said. "It got worse and worse, and the house of cards finally fell."

The convicted thief apologized to her victims.

"I really want to pay them," Baldugo said. "But I was not able to pay them right away because, due to the hardship of the business."

Saying that being a bad businesswoman is no excuse, prosecutors sought a five-year prison term.

"Like a lot of businesses, maybe she was facing tough economic times," Van Marter said. "But law-abiding citizens don't deal with that by stealing money from the customers."

Circuit Judge Colette Garibaldi handed down a one-year jail sentence, which Diwa says is not enough.

"Small, small," the victim said about the punishment through tears.

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