161 complaints filed against travel agency that abruptly closed
The Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation into a travel agency that we told you abruptly closed its doors in November.
It’s a story we’ve followed for two months after Legendary Journeys shut down leaving customers out of thousands of dollars with no vacations.
The AG’s Office said in the last year it received 161 complaints about Legendary Journeys.
Annette Gutknecht, of Englewood, filed one of those complaints.
“Three days in Portugal and three days in Madrid,” said Gutknecht about the vacation she booked.
Gutknecht paid out $7,000 for what have been the trip of a lifetime, a Portugal cruise and sailing along the Douro River.
Jerry and Carolyn Ross had a similar trip booked to the Caribbean to celebrate a milestone.
“It was for our 50th wedding anniversary,” said Jerry Ross, of Punta Gorda.
Neither couple got their dream vacation.
Two months ago, we talked to Legendary Journey president, Al Ferguson who couldn’t give a straight answer to where his customer’s money was.
“Well, in various places,” said Ferguson. “They were purchasing packaging that included airfare, that included touring, and hotels and their deposit was far more than just the cruise component. As a result, their deposit went to many many things.”
The Ross’ said their travel package did not include airfare, touring, or hotels, and Legendary Journeys did not pay the cruise line.
The Gutknechts said their travel package did include airfare and cruise. However, neither entity was paid by Legendary Journeys.
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Ferguson blamed the abrupt closure on employee theft, Caribbean hurricanes, and unrest in Cuba and promised that every customer would be refunded.
“We’re expecting that we will be complete by the end of the year,” said Ferguson.
But on January 2nd, Ferguson sent a text message to us that read: “The closure of Legendary Journeys is now handled through the legal process of attorneys and accountants and the court bankruptcy system.”
But according to the state’s bankruptcy court records, nothing had been filed for Legendary Journeys or Ferguson.
Business Trial Attorney, Richard Johnston, explains a possible reason why.
“There’s no indication right now that that company has filed bankruptcy. They may be preparing a bankruptcy filing, and that does take some work, for the documents that are needed already, and so that could be it. But even in the most emergent situations, you can have a quick filing if you need too.”
Johnston said bankruptcies for businesses typically fall into two categories, Chapter 7 or Chapter 11.
“Chapter 7 is a liquidation, and Chapter 11 is typically a reorganization. In Chapter 7, the court of law appoints a trustee to gather the assets and sell them all and then pay the creditors. In a Chapter 11, the debtor who owes the money works with the creditor to come up with a plan to repay,” said Johnston.
Bottom line, if Ferguson filed for bankruptcy and he actually has the assets he claims he has, customers may get some of their money back.
But with 161 complaints to the AG’s Office, that could mean less money to go around.
“If there’s more creditors, it deludes recovery, so that each person gets a smaller percentage and all of the people who are similarly situated have to be treated the same, so yes, if there’s a large body of creditors, that may mean a lower per person recovery,” said Johnston.
In the meantime, customers are still waiting and hoping that Ferguson will refund them.
“We just hope that you’ll [Ferguson] abide by your word and repay us,” said Carolyn Ross.
“I’m just hoping against odds that the legal system in our country will do something to stop this,” said Gutknecht.
After several emails and calls to Ferguson’s attorney, a secretary said that he would contact us later this week.
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