Fraud Suit Leveled Against ‘First Woman to Travel to Every Country’

If you follow international travel celebrities on social media, there’s a decent chance one of them is Cassandra “Cassie” De Pecol. The American has well over half a million followers on Instagram and TikTok and made a significant splash in the influencer industry when she initially claimed to be “the first woman to travel to every country in the world” in 2017.

Guinness World Records verified that De Pecol has, in fact, traveled to all 195 sovereign nations on the UN’s officially recognized list. The problem is, it looks distinctly like multiple women pulled off the feat before De Pecol — some long before.

Now, a consumer protection group has leveled a lawsuit against her for defrauding her investors and sponsors.

De Pecol leverages ‘first woman…’ claim

Audrey Walsworth is 87. Reportedly, she started traveling the world in 1969 on a trip to her ancestral home in Lithuania and checked the final box on the UN list in Timor Leste in 2002.

Walsworth’s story is well-documented, just not as popular as De Pecol’s, apparently.

The Washington Post reported that she got her start by saving $10,000 in babysitting money before embarking on her world tour in July 2015. The outlet also said that she told reporters that sponsors primarily funded her travel.

Today, she hosts a podcast, has given a TED Talk, takes paid speaking engagements, has published a book about her travels, and runs her own fitness app.

Lawsuit filed

Other prolific international travelers have brought her reputation into question for years. Now, a lawsuit from consumer protections group Travelers United threatens De Pecol’s robust livelihood.

Travelers United alleged that De Pecol has benefited from “unfair and deceptive advertising” in 325 Instagram posts and 7 TikToks.

The false claims, the group alleges, include the following:

  • De Pecol has falsely claimed she is the first woman to travel to every country. She is not the first woman to travel to every country.
  • De Pecol regularly advertises and promotes goods without disclosing she is being paid to promote those products.
  • De Pecol charges $4,500 for one Instagram post.

As her follower count grew, Travelers United said, she was likely able to charge more per post.

Under the “first woman to travel to every country” banner, De Pecol has promoted high-profile brands and products like GoDaddy, Venus razors, and Quest Nutrition. Travelers United told the Washington Post she “defrauded investors and sponsors by telling them she was the first woman to travel to every country on earth when she was not, but she also misled and deceived press even years on, about her accomplishments.”

De Pecol defends reputation

De Pecol responded to the allegations in a statement.

“This complaint is yet another baseless attack on me and my accomplishments,” the influencer said. “I intend to vigorously contest what regrettably appears to be a rehash of the same untenable allegations that have been leveled against me in the past.”

De Pecol began defending her claims in 2017, largely on the basis of two Guinness World Records. At the time, she held world records for “Fastest Time to Travel to All Sovereign Countries” and “Fastest Time to Travel to All Sovereign Countries (female).” Neither record, however, relates to whether or not the holder is the “first woman to travel to every country in the world.”

On April 13, 2017, De Pecol wrote the following in a Facebook post:

“I have consistently stated that I am the “first woman/female on record” and “first documented woman/female” to have traveled to every Sovereign Nation.

“I collected copious amounts of legitimized evidence from every Sovereign Nation I visited during my travels and submitted that evidence to Guinness World Records to break two records: the first for ‘Fastest Time to Travel to All Sovereign Countries;’ and the second for ‘Fastest Time to Travel to All Sovereign Countries (female).’

“I am unaware that any other female has documented her travels to every Sovereign Nation, let alone with the rapidity with which I accomplished the feat.”

Scrutiny among global travelers builds

As De Pecol’s audience and influence have grown, so has the international travel community’s scrutiny over her fidelity. Nina Sedano, 56, has also swept the UN list. She said she tried to contact De Pecol via Facebook to ask her questions about her trips.

Sedano documented her travels to every country in her 2014 German bestseller “Die Ländersammlerin” (English: “The Female Country Collector”). According to her, De Pecol ignored her when she imparted her experience.

“I said, ‘I have also traveled to all the nations and did it by the end of September 2011, and even I was not the first woman to do that,'” Sedano said. “She didn’t react.”

The Washington Post reported that Sedano’s travel records, including photographs of all 10 passports she used, have appeared prolifically in the German press. It’s unclear whether De Pecol has shared her own documents outside her communication with Guinness World Records.

Lee Abbamonte, who has also traveled to every sovereign nation, spoke to De Pecol’s claims on a podcast in 2017.

“She told me she was going to become the first woman to go to every country. I actually emailed her back, there have been at least three or four that have done it, and I know a couple of them,” he said. “I never actually got a response after that email back in 2015. I think she rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and she handled things poorly.”

Interestingly, De Pecol claimed she was “friends” with Abbamonte in a message thread with traveler Petro Marais.

“I’m friends with Lee, and many other men who have been to every country, women as well who have been to many,” De Pecol’s message, published by HuffPost, said. “I obtained a minimum of 2 forms of proof from every single sovereign nation and risked my life doing so for some. You can hate me, but I obtained proof, something that no other person who is claiming to be the ‘first’ has done.”

Walsworth, like Sedano, also reportedly has physical proof of her travels.

Lawsuit leverages strict regulations

Travelers United filed its suit against De Pecol under Washington, D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), which is notably stringent. The advocacy group claims that if it is possible to see De Pecol’s advertising in D.C. and purchase goods that she falsely advertised, it’s possible to sue her in D.C.