A trusted and long time agent of Philippine Tours was dismissed for misappropriating more than $150,000 of clients’ money, according to distraught owner Virginia Kalong. Philippine Tours has been in operation for nearly 30 years now.
The discovery came mid-December of last year, after a call from a client asking for her family’s tickets prompted Kalong to start an investigation. Documents showed that the beleaguered agent had the client and other clients deposit cash payments to her personal bank account. She managed to cover monies she received from clients by applying to their accounts payments made in the same amount by other clients who used credit cards.
When the company started receiving complaints, they started to do their internal investigation. “We asked the passengers how they paid, and was told they paid the agent direct but we cannot find this payment. Then we got the proof of payment by direct deposit which was deposited direct to the agent’s own account. Most clients who paid by credit card, the payment was applied to another client to cover the monies the agent received directly and over and over and over again…until she could no longer cover this anymore,” she told The Philippine Times.
Kalong, who was unsettled by the discovery, immediately appealed to her affected clients and ensured that they were all rebooked and ticketed. “Bottom line is that no clients were in any way out of pocket, inconvenienced, yes, and for this I apologise on behalf of PT but we were victimised, betrayed and lied to by this agent,” she added.
As of press time, the amount embezzled is said to be $152,751 but there are still transactions unaccounted for. In an interview, Kalong said they are waiting to hear from other clients who transacted business with this agent. Philippine Tours wants to confirm how they paid for their tickets because their accounts reflect payments made using other persons’ accounts.
Amidst the betrayal, Kalong is confident with the “no payment, no ticket” system being used by Philippine Tours. She is resolute not to lose faith in other people just because of this breach of trust. “I will not allow one person’s wrongdoings to punish the rest of my staff. I have terminated our dealings with this agent and I believe that I have 100 percent efficient, trustworthy and loyal people in my office,” she asserted. Kalong said the company will not change anything as its system is very effective but will improve on crosschecking.
Kalong is consoled by the compassion shown by her affected clients who understood that she and her company are also victims. “I want to sincerely thank my clients who supported us through the several weeks of trauma and willingly submitted their documents to us to help us in our auditing,” she said.
The agent, who admitted to the deed, is now in the Philippines. Kalong even prepaid the agent and her husband’s tickets after having been promised payment. “I have given the agent all opportunities to come clean. I was promised (in writing) that they have property being sold in the Philippines and I will be paid by the proceeds, but, of course, it was also fraud,” Kalong painfully recounted.
Despite the unfinished ordeal, Kalong strives to come out of it unscathed. “This happens even to the best operator or corporation but they can afford the losses due to their higher profitability. We are solid but this fraud created a big hole in our business. Trust has to come from someone, I still trust all my staff, we just have to be more vigilant in crosschecking to avoid temptation and this happening again.”
Last month’s crisis is indeed a roller-coaster ride and Kalong drew strength from God, “After the novena last night and searching for the right thing to do, I am more geared on listening to what my heart is saying–forgiveness. I cannot even get angry. I am hurt but not mad. I am sad for her. I take full responsibility, I took her in.”
If given a choice, Kalong wants to keep silent and end everything, “I really want to put this behind me and move on but justice is needed. Not for me but for the people around me who trusted her and our clients.”
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