PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Some retired Palm Beach County school teachers say their money and their travel agent have disappeared. They are demanding action and giving a warning to everyone.
It was supposed to be a dream vacation in Ireland. Instead, the former local educators and others say they booked a trip to nowhere.
"For us, it's like losing a dream of a great retirement", said Acreage resident and former special education teacher, Linda Laverty. She wanted to celebrate her retirement with twelve day trip to Ireland. An acquaintance recommended booking through Orlando-based Elite Cruise Options.
Laverty contacted the owner, Kathleen Caron, who offered up a deal that seemed amazing; perhaps, too good to be true. "In order to give you that price, you have to pay by check - the whole thing." In July of last year Laverty and her husband wrote that check for $2,700.
Friend and fellow retiree Doris Shea did the same thing, hoping to travel together this coming October. "It may not seem like a lot to a lot of people," said Shea. "But that is money that we saved and we earned and it's gone." Only now are the women - and others across the state - realizing that their trips were never even booked. At least two dozen families who paid Elite Cruise Options say they are in the same boat.
At Caron's home, is where a reporter from an Orlando television station confronted Caron's co-manager, Paul Karazegian.
"Consumers say they paid for cruises that they never got," said the reporter. Karazegian called those accusations 'a lie'.
He said the cruises were booked but that it 'was not his place' to answer questions.
Laverty and Shea say they are have not yet received answers either. The pair has contacted law enforcement and say they will keep fighting to get their money refunded.
"We just never had a clue or a thought that that would ever happen to us." said Shea.
Caron has yet to respond to requests for comment from media or from her customers.
The Better Business Bureau, meanwhile, recently downgraded the travel agency's rating to an 'F'.
On Wednesday, the state's Division of Consumer Services acknowledged it will be looking into Elite Cruise Options. The move gives some of the travel agency's customers some hope of getting their money back.
To make sure you are dealing with a reputable travel agent, experts IndependentTraveler.com recommend going with an agency registered with the American Society of Travel Agents. Also, try to work with a local agent. That way, you will be able to visit your agent's office in-person.
Additional tips include researching both travel agents and travel pricing on your own. The more information you have about any product., the more likely you will find what you really want.