NYPD detectives have been looking into the case of a Chinatown travel agency that suddenly closed its doors last week, allegedly costing its customers up to $1 million and possibly prompting one suicide, according to a prominent community leader and a law enforcement source.
On Thursday private attorneys spoke with a number of customers and explained possible legal action, including criminal referrals, in a case that may have victimized more than 400 people in New York and other states.
Broadview Tours, which worked out of a tiny office at 12 Pell St., closed on May 11 after it filed a Chapter 7 federal bankruptcy petition. The sudden demise of the company, also known as First Chamber Inc., left hundreds of travelers desperate for the return of cash they used to purchase airline tickets.
An airline ticket consolidator who told Newsday last Friday that he was owed around $13,000 by the travel agency, was found dead at his desk during the weekend. A law enforcement source who didn't want to be named said the death is being investigated as a possible suicide and that the victim wrote a note talking about the business pressure he faced. A spokeswoman for the city medical examiner said autopsy results were pending.
Some travelers in China discovered that they had no valid return tickets and needed to shell out more cash in order to return to New York, said Edward Chiu, president of the Lin Sing Association, Inc.
Following a Newsday story, detectives from the Fifth Precinct visited Chiu to obtain information he has been collecting from customers. Chiu said the detectives then took their findings to the Manhattan district attorney's office, which declined to comment about the matter Thursday. NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis couldn't be reached for comment
Bankruptcy court records show that the travel agency president was Vivian Cheng. Her brother Wilson sometimes worked in the office as well, according to Chiu and customers.
Chiu has been coordinating efforts to collect documents and bank statements from customers and Thursday met with legal experts to go over a plan of action. Broadview's attorneys haven't returned messages for comment.
"If they took reservations for things they promised . . . we will investigate to see if it falls into any sort of criminal activity," attorney Robert Brown told customers. "It might be larceny at the state level, or it might be some sort of criminal bankruptcy fraud in the federal [area]."