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Travel agent gets 3-year prison term

The package includes a room and all meals, ground transportation, clothing and certified escorts _ at no charge.

Hilda Cacciatore never booked a deal like the one she got Wednesday, when she traded a no-contest plea on a fraud charge for three years in state prison.

The 53-year-old owner of Peggy's Tours and Travel faced one count of scheming to defraud for allegedly using customers' money to pay off debts instead of booking their trips, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

The prison term will be followed by an unusually long term of 20 years' probation during which Cacciatore is to repay the more than $60,000 lost by scores of former clients.

Cacciatore, who had lived in Spring Hill before her arrest, appeared in the judge's chambers wearing handcuffs and a light-blue shirt labeled "Pasco Jail." She showed no reaction as the judge recited the terms of the plea agreement to her.

He asked her if she had any questions, and she replied, "No, I'm fine, thank you."

Authorities still do not know how much money Cacciatore's former clients lost, or how many there are. After Cacciatore was charged in December, numerous customers of Peggy's in Spring Hill, Elfers and Port Richey began to come forward.

A few of those customers attended Cacciatore's sentencing Wednesday. Afterward, in brief interviews, they despaired of ever seeing their money again.

Cacciatore still faces charges of grand theft, common law cheating and organized fraud in Hernando County, stemming from other travel agency transactions there.

Hernando prosecutors were waiting for the Pasco case to be resolved before proceeding with theirs, Chief Assistant State Attorney Rita Battista said Wednesday. That action will probably come quickly now, she said.

_ Times staff writer Wes Platt contributed to this report.