Bamboozled: It’s been quite a trip

Being made whole, one customer at a time.

We’re talking about those who did business with Daryl Turner, the alleged scammer who would open a travel club, solicit membership fees costing thousands of dollars, and shut the company’s doors before customers received promised discounted travel packages, authorities said. He’d then do it again under a different company name.

Turner signed a more than $3 million settlement with the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs related to 11 such companies. Although he was banned from the travel business in the state for five years, authorities later alleged he continued the same practices under new company names.

The government has not yet collected a dime on the settlement, but Turner was arrested in July on a charge of fraud by deception, and some of his assets, including luxury cars and a bank account, were seized.

There’s nothing new to report on the criminal charge, but Consumer Affairs director Thomas Calcagni said he’s met with a number of banks about returning customer money through chargebacks.

“They have refused to budge from their position that those charges are appropriate and they’re not willing to allow any chargebacks,” Calgagni said. “But we haven’t given up.”

Some customers have appealed to their credit card companies directly, armed with court filings and copies of Bamboozled columns about Turner.

That’s what Jay Schlesinger did in an attempt to recoup a $4,893 charge on his Chase credit card in June 2009 by Dream Vacations International, one of Turner’s companies.

Schlesinger said his requested travel dates were never available so he canceled his membership. Then he disputed the charge with Chase.

The dispute was denied without explanation in June 2011. Baffling, because that same week, Chase refunded money to Robert and Marlene Miller, Chase customers who disputed their membership charge with Modern Destinations Unlimited — another Turner company.

It’s possible that Jay Schlesinger’s fight with Chase isn’t over yet.

Reader Patricia Dreibelbis of Wallingford, Penn., who charged more than $4,000 for Travel Deals — another Turner company — on her Chase card, wanted to share her chargeback experience with other customers.

Her initial dispute was denied. Dreibelbis said the Chase rep explained the dispute was coded as a “Code 30 – non-receipt of services.” The merchant had 45 days to respond, during which time Dreibelbis’ account was provisionally credited. Once the merchant responded, citing the contract Dreibelbis signed, the money was returned to the merchant, she said.

“We refuted the validity of the contract, and we also provided documentation of the arrest of Turner, etc.,” she said in an e-mail. “At that point, the Chase rep changed the reason to ‘Code 53 – quality of services.’”

According to Dreibelbis, Chase explained it was now up to the merchant’s bank — Wells Fargo — to decide the case.

Wells decided in her favor, and $4,264 was credited to her account.

Very interesting, indeed. Consumer Affairs’ Calcagni said the lenders told him that when a merchant receives a substantial amount of chargeback requests, the liability lies with the merchant bank that holds the account, and that’s exactly what happened here.

Bamboozled told Jay Schlesinger of the success, and we encouraged him to try again, recommending he find out how his dispute was coded.

He said he called Chase, but the rep couldn’t tell him the coding of his dispute because it was from 2009. She promised to call back, he said.

An hour later, another rep called, saying there was nothing more the bank could do because of the contract, Schlesinger said.

“I tried to explain to her that it doesn’t matter what I signed, a fraud is a fraud,” Schlesinger said. “There are no words to describe how angry I am.”

We asked Chase if a change in dispute coding could help.

Within a few days, without explanation or answers about dispute coding, Schlesinger got a call from someone in Chase’s executive offices.

“She said, ‘I have good news. I’ve been spending the last couple of days reading the documents and stories about this, and you’re been a customer of ours for more than 15 years. We’re making an exception and we’re going to credit that money to your account,’” Schlesinger said he was told.

Awesome. Chase said it was also working on one other case was made aware of by Bamboozled, but there was no comment about the Schlesinger refund.

Thanks to Chase.

One customer at a time. We’ll stay on it.


Mark Conca’s modification and foreclosure ordeal with Bank of America isn’t over yet.

Conca applied for a modification on the mortgage for his three-bedroom Caldwell home.

While he waited for approval, he kept making his mortgage payments, in full and on time.

When he heard from the bank, it wasn’t with a modification offer. It was to say he was two months late on this mortgage. Bank of America reported it to the credit bureaus, Conca said, and one of his cards lowered his available credit because of it.

But he had never missed a mortgage payment.

Despite assurances and reassurances from the bank that the errors were fixed, nothing was corrected. Then Conca started to receive foreclosure notices.

After we asked Bank of America to review, we learned that Conca was approved for a trial modification program — which Conca said he was never told about — and the bank credited his payments to the wrong account.

Bank of America corrected the errors and ceased foreclosure proceedings.

Conca still wanted the modification, and the bank said it would look into it.

It did.

Conca’s modification request — which had previously been approved in a July 19 letter from Bank of America — was denied in October.

Bank of America did say it made corrections with the credit bureaus, but it could take 90 days for changes to appear. While he waits, the black mark is making it impossible for him to refinance the loan with another lender, he said.

Conca’s credit card issuer also has a copy of the letter, but no changes have been made to his credit limit, he said.

“That doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that we wasted almost two years working on this and they made me believe they were going to work this out for me,” Conca said.

When Conca’s credit is repaired, he plans to continue searching for a better loan.


The GPS is installed.

On Sept. 10, Rajeev Borborah purchased a Sonata from Brad Benson Hyundai in South Brunswick. The car was supposed to have a factory-installed navigation system. It didn’t.

The dealership promised it would install one within five days. It didn’t.

Why? The GPS installation would cause the car’s Blue Link system — a system that implements features such as emergency alerts and maintenance reminders — to fail, the dealership said. The two systems wouldn’t work together.

When Bamboozled called, the dealership said it was getting Borborah a different GPS, but it never explained why one system would work and the other would cause trouble.

Despite that, Borborah brought his car for the installation on Oct. 20.

Borborah gave us a post-install report via e-mail: “Lost the Voice Command System driven by a button on the steering wheel. Not the ideal case but since I do not use it I just let it be,” he wrote.

He wondered if the dealership told him ahead of time that some functionality may be lost upon installation.

No, they did not tell me beforehand,” he said. “In fact, when I dropped car off in the morning I asked them if all existing things in the car will work and the service lady said that yes, everything would work.”

I am telling you, it is not the customer who is important for these guys, but the bottom line,” Borborah said.

So much for full functionality.