A Brooklyn-based bus company accused of charging more than 130 consumers for tour bus services that were never provided and then failing to provide refunds after the company closed has run into a roadblock.
The office of New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo has notified Crosby Tours, Inc. and its principals, Reed Elson, Frank P. Scarpinito and Monika Bialokur, of its intention to sue, seeking full restitution to victimized consumers as well as penalties and costs to the state. The matter is being pursued jointly with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, which will seek penalties and costs to the City.
Elson, Scarpinito and Bialokur previously worked for Biss Tours, a company that was the subject of legal action by the attorney general's office and state Department of Consumer Affairs in 2008 for refusing to refund consumers for trips that never took place.
"This tour bus company booked trips, took money, and then shut down without delivering on its promises," said Cuomo. "When customers reached out for help to the company, they were left without answers, and so today we are taking legal action."
"New Yorkers who saved their hard-earned money for well-deserved vacations deserve their money back and we are working to do just that," said New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan B. Mintz. "We urge New Yorkers who find themselves in a similar position to call 311 so we can help."
The investigation revealed that Crosby accepted advance payments from consumers for future tour bus services that they failed to provide. The company closed down in November 2009 without providing refunds to consumers whose trips never took place. In one instance, Crosby changed the tour pick-up time without informing consumers, causing some of them to miss the tour.
"I booked a three day tour with Crosby Tours for Nov. 26 thru 28 2009," Mary of Bronx, NY, tells ConsumerAffairs.com. "The pickup was at 9:00 AM in Manhattan at 32nd St. and 33rd St. and 5th Ave. I got there at 8:00 am. Waited until 10:30 AM. Cosby Tour bus did not come. I did not receive a call on my home phone or cell phone saying the trip was cancelled. This trip was paid with my credit card for $539.00."
After an investigation by the attorney general's office and the Department of Consumer Affairs concluded in March, Crosby's principals sent refund checks to only some of the victimized consumers. Many consumers have still not been paid refunds.
Consumers who did business with Crosby Tours and believe they were defrauded are urged to contact the attorney general's office at 800-771-7755 or the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs at 311 / www.nyc.gov/consumers.
Cuomo and Mintz urge consumers who are considering hiring a travel service or agent to consider the following tips:
Book trips with a reputable vendor. Contact the local consumer protection agencies, such as the New York State Attorney General or the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, to check if the travel business has a history of complaints. New York City residents should call 311 to check the complaint status of any business.
Double check all the details especially when vacations are booked through a third party travel agency. Get all the contact information for the trip, such as charter buses, rental car companies, hotels and airlines and then verify the arrangements.
Pay with a credit card. Many credit card companies can provide customers with refunds when there is a dispute about the services delivered. However, consumers should only provide trusted businesses with credit card information.
Get all the details of the trip in writing, including cancellation fees and the businesses' refund policy. Consider travel insurance for added protection.
Even when buying travel insurance, though, it is important to be cautious. That's another area into which the scam artists have moved.