- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Bail has been set at $150,000 for an Omaha woman accused of operating a travel voucher scheme that bilked her employees out of thousands and her customers out of more than $1 million.

Patricia Urbanovsky, 30, also had her passport confiscated Friday at her bond hearing in Douglas County Court, the Omaha World-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1CAOaxf ).

Urbanovsky is charged with three felony counts of theft. She faces up to 20 years in prison for each count if convicted. She waived her preliminary hearing and will be scheduled for trial at a later date.

Urbanovsky ran a scheme through her event-planning business, Creative Creations, to sell discounted Southwest Airlines travel vouchers, which turned out to be worthless, County Attorney Don Kleine said.

The company purchased the vouchers for airline flights at a reduced rate and resold them to the public. But hundreds of customers discovered their vouchers wouldn’t be honored because the company had overbooked flights. Only a limited number of vouchers can be redeemed each month.

Urbanovsky had three employees use their personal credit cards to buy $141,000 in vouchers when she exceeded her own credit card limits, promising to pay them back, Kleine said. When she issued them reimbursement checks, they bounced.

“She knew these checks were not good checks,” Kleine said.

Kleine said Urbanovsky misled her employees by telling them she was working with a Southwest Airlines employee named Christopher Frederick. Frederick “would even communicate with employees via email or text message from a Yahoo account,” according to court documents.

Kleine said Frederick doesn’t exist and that investigators traced the emails and texts to Urbanovsky’s own phone number. Southwest Airlines, which was not involved in the sale of the vouchers, has also said Frederick did not exist.

Officials have said those who bought the useless vouchers likely won’t recover the money. Since March, the Better Business Bureau in Omaha has received more than 1,500 complaints about the vouchers, and losses associated with the complaints total more than $1.3 million, said Jim Hegarty, the bureau’s president.

Kleine said the investigation is ongoing and more charges could be filed against Urbanovsky.

Urbanovsky remained in the Douglas County jail Saturday and could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Steve Lefler of Omaha, said his client is innocent and blamed her troubles on a faulty business model.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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