New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Files Second Lawsuit Against Notorious Travel Company Owner
NEWARK – The State Division of Consumer Affairs this week filed a second lawsuit against travel company owner Daryl T. Turner, who in just February of this year settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit with the Division alleging a pattern of deceptive business practices carried out by his numerous vacation travel membership companies.
The six-count Verified Complaint filed Monday in Burlington County Superior Court charges Turner, individually and d/b/a Reservations, his wife Robyn B. Bernstein, and their Marlton-based company, Travel Deals Limited Liability Company, as well as VIP Executives, LLC, with violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations, by failing to fulfill promises of complimentary cruises and airfare used to induce attendance at sales presentations, and failing to provide the luxury vacation packages at discounted prices represented during the sales presentations.
On Tuesday, Presiding Judge of the Chancery Division, Michael J. Hogan, temporarily enjoined the defendants from transferring or disposing of any assets related to the matter, and specifically enjoined Turner from any involvement in the business operations of Travel Deals or from otherwise engaging in the advertisement, offering for sale, and sale of vacation packages to consumers in and outside of New Jersey.
In a separate action, attorneys representing the Division of Consumer Affairs and Turner are scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Morris County on Friday, June 10, 2011, for argument on the State’s earlier-filed Motion to Enforce Litigant’s Rights, alleging that Turner is in violation of the February 2011 settlement. (See May 19, 2011 press release, available at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/press/vacationtravel.htm ). In addition to barring Turner from engaging in the travel business in the state for no less than five years, and from operating any such business thereafter without State approval, that Consent Judgment required Turner to repay consumers nearly $2.2 million for vacation packages and/or complimentary items never provided. The Division has alleged that its recent discovery of substantial undisclosed assets held by Turner, including several luxury vehicles, belies his sworn statement that he is unable to meet any portion of his restitution obligation.
“As we allege in our lawsuit, Turner is in clear violation of his settlement with the State,” said Attorney General Paula T. Dow. “Every indication points to Travel Deals being yet another of Turner’s companies that dangles too-good-to-be-true offers of free cruises and international vacations in front of consumers, defrauds consumers of their hard-earned money, and then leaves them with little more than heartache and frustration.”
To date, the Division has received complaints from 15 consumers, the majority of whom paid between $2,500 and $5,194 for vacation packages, which as alleged in the State’s new lawsuit, turned out to be essentially worthless.
The alleged scheme is similar to that which was the subject of the Division’s previous lawsuit against Turner. According to that lawsuit, filed in 2009, Turner and his various vacation travel companies took payment from consumers and then repeatedly failed to provide the contracted-for vacation packages, or refund the money. The defendants also failed to deliver various promotional items promised to consumers in return for their attendance at promotional seminars. More than 670 affected consumers were identified in that lawsuit, which named Turner and his travel companies as defendants, namely Dreamworks Vacation Club a/k/a Dreamworks Vacations a/k/a Dreamworks, Five Points Travel Company, Bentley Travel, Modern Destinations Unlimited, Blue Water, Vacation Clubs LLC d/b/a La Bonne Vie Travel, Dream Vacations International, Inc., and Away We Go Promotions, LLC.
“Although Travels Deals is a relatively new company, the defendants’ unconscionable business practices are no different than those of Turner’s prior enterprises: bait-and-switch promotional gimmicks, empty promises of deep-discount luxury vacation packages, and costly and unconscionable cancellation policies,” Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “By these latest actions, we are holding Daryl Turner to his $2.2 million obligation payable to consumers. And where it seems that Turner has been slow to catch on, we’re once again spelling it out in simple terms for these defendants – if you rip off our citizens, you will pay.”
In addition to consumer restitution and reimbursement of the State’s investigative costs and attorneys’ fees, the State is seeking assessment of civil penalties against the defendants. Under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, and in light of the Consent Judgment resolving the earlier lawsuit, any violation would constitute a second or succeeding violation, subjecting Turner to enhanced civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation.
Under the Order entered by Judge Hogan yesterday, the parties are to appear in Court on July 18, 2011, at 1:30 PM, at which time Judge Hogan will hear argument on the State’s request for a preliminary injunction, appointment of a receiver, and asset freeze. The temporary restraints will remain in effect until then.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, is representing the Division of Consumer Affairs. Division of Consumer Affairs Investigator Murat Botas of the Office of Consumer Protection is conducting the investigation. The Burlington County Consumer Affairs Local Assistance Office assisted in the earlier investigation.