More than 700 consumers in New Jersey filed complaints against travel clubs run by Daryl Turner, accusing Turner and the companies of not delivering on promises of discounted travel to those who paid thousands of dollars to become “members.” Turner allegedly would then shut down the company, but would soon reopen under a different business name, according to the state.
The Division of Consumer Affairs claimed Turner operated at least 12 such businesses. Company names included Dreamworks, Five Points Travel and Modern Destinations Unlimited.
In Feb. 2011, it settled with Turner, who agreed to pay more than $3 million, which included nearly $2.2 million in restitution for about 500 consumers who were included in the settlement.
To date, no one has received a penny.
That’s partly because the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice charged Turner with one count of second degree theft by deception in July 2011. It seized property, including eight bank accounts, five luxury cars and a speedboat, and it put a lien on the Turner home in Marlton.
But those assets will remain in limbo rather than be used to pay restitution — for now — while consumers await further action from Criminal Justice.
It did not respond to our requests for comment.
The latest news came from a consumer who filed a complaint against one of Turner’s businesses. He received an update letter from Consumer Affairs — also part of the Attorney General’s office — which didn’t offer much hope for restitution.
“Under these circumstances, there are no available assets to satisfy your restitution claim or the claims of the hundreds of other affected consumers. In the event this circumstance changes in any respect, we will certainly notify you,” the letter said.
Acting Director of Consumer Affairs Eric Kanefsky said the division mailed consumers the letters as a “routine communication” to keep them fully updated about this case.
“We have told those consumers that the Division will do everything in its power to provide restitution, and we remain committed to that promise,” Kanefsky said.
It’s been 18 months since Turner’s arrest. Hundreds of consumers are still waiting.
THAT OTHER TRAVEL DEAL
It’s been a while since we’ve heard any updates about Club ABC Tours, a Bloomfield travel company that seemingly went out of business overnight in October 2012.
But consumers who say they were scammed are still asking Bamboozled. We’ve spoken to dozens of would-be travelers who said they paid thousands of dollars for trips, but the company never made reservations on their behalf, or never paid the bills. The lucky ones learned about it before they left on their trips, but dozens didn’t know the bills were unpaid until they were already overseas.
Some even learned, they said, the trip insurance they paid for was never purchased by Club ABC Tours.
A public records search shows that the company owners — brothers Robert and Tom Paris — have not filed for bankruptcy protection, but there have been two suits filed in New Jersey and one in New York by consumers who said they were wronged.
We checked in with Consumer Affairs, which said it could not confirm or deny the existence of any criminal or civil investigation.
“The Division of Consumer Affairs has been in touch with approximately 270 consumers who said they were adversely affected by Club ABC Tours,” Kanefsky said. “We assure the public that the Office of the Attorney General continues to use all resources and means at our disposal to address this situation.”
We’ll keep you posted.
SANDY “SUMMIT” UPDATE
The man who cancelled a December “summit” about Superstorm Sandy had a date with a New Jersey court on Jan. 30 over alleged violations of the Consumer Fraud Act.
Bill Loiry, a self-proclaimed “philanthropist-entrepreneur” who hosts for-profit reconstruction conferences in disaster areas, tried to hold an event called the “Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit” on Dec. 17 in Trenton.
The Attorney General’s office stopped the event, alleging violations including conducting business in the state under assumed names that are not registered, falsely implying that the sponsors are affiliated with or endorsed by federal, state or local government agencies and misleading advertisements.
Bamboozled wrote about the action after many of the “decision-makers” Loiry said would attend the summit told us they were not attending.
After the suit was filed and New Jersey made it clear Loiry wasn’t welcome here, he cancelled the event, but he pledged to hold a similar one in January at another location.
And he did.
But first, that Jan. 30 court date.
The Superior Court judge decided to continue the temporary restraining order against Loiry, which means he still can’t hold events in New Jersey.
In court documents, the state said an undercover investigator paid $175 by credit card to attend the not-yet-cancelled New Jersey conference.
“On the Payment Method screen, there was no option to register as an individual or victim of Superstorm Sandy, nor was there an option to register without paying the registration fee or any disclosure that such fee was non-refundable,” the investigator said in court documents.
As of Friday, Consumer Affairs said, Loiry has not provided a refund or answered emails seeking the refund.
“The state will continue its action against Loiry until he has fully repaid every individual who paid in advance to attend the Dec. 17 event which never took place,” Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.
No new court dates have been scheduled.
We contacted Loiry to ask about those refunds, but he didn’t respond to our requests.
We also wanted to ask him about the Sandy summit re-do.
The “American Reconstruction & Restoration Summit” took place on Jan. 23 in Washington, D.C, promising the same kind of rundown of top names on disaster relief and rebuilding as his other conferences.
Then, Loiry’s attorney sent a letter to The Star-Ledger’s editorial board, which had written an editorial on the New Jersey summit. The letter said the D.C. conference was moderated by Rear Admiral Donald P. Loren (U.S. Navy, retired), who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Security. Speakers included the staff director of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, the intergovernmental coordinator for the state of Connecticut, and Asbury Park mayor Ed Johnson.
The attorney also said the conference featured a former FEMA coordinator for Gulf Coast recovery, and several unnamed “business leaders” from New York and New Jersey, and speakers from nonprofits.
And finally, he asked that The Star-Ledger “acknowledge that its rush-to-judgment about Mr. Loiry and the conference… was unfair and did a disservice to the people of New Jersey. And I hope you can now agree… the Division of Consumer Affairs and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office acted in undue haste and without proper consideration of the public benefits.”
We’ll leave that for the people of New Jersey to decide.
Asbury Park’s mayor Ed Johnson said he wasn’t aware of the attorney general’s allegations, or Bamboozled’s stories, before he attended the D.C. conference.
“It really was a great opportunity for us to continue to get our message out about our needs on the ground in Sandy-affected communities,” he said. “In terms of my mission to get Sandy relief approved and help put pressure on Congress, it was very helpful.”
He said before he attended, he asked Loiry who else would be there. Johnson said all the names that Loiry offered did attend the summit.
Johnson also said an investigator from the attorney general’s office called him last week to discuss his experience.
“[Loiry] certainly has some issues that people are concerned about,” Johnson said. “It is very interesting to get a call from the attorney general”s office and to read the articles you had done. It was eye-opening.”
Johnson said he’d reserve his decision on attending a future conference depending on what the particular conference might offer.
There’s already a new one scheduled — but not about Sandy.
The “Gulf Coast Restoration Summit,” geared toward those who are concerned with the BP Oil Spill, is scheduled for April in New Orleans. Full attendance will cost $475.
No speakers were highlighted on the event web site.
On this, too, we’ll keep you posted.