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Travel Club Operators Sued for Scamming Customers

New Jersey authorities have sued two brothers who they say ran travel clubs that defrauded customers out of more than $1 million and left some people stranded overseas when the companies went under.

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced the lawsuit Wednesday against Robert Paris of Greenwich, Conn., and Thomas Paris of New York. The brothers are charged with violating New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.

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The Paris brothers operated Club ABC Tours and ABC Destinations, members-only travel clubs based in Bloomfield, N.J. The lawsuit alleges the brothers used club members’ payments for future trips to pay for earlier trips booked by other members.

The lawsuit claims dozens of people arrived in Italy to find the travel companies hadn’t paid for their hotels last fall.

Michael Baldassare, an attorney representing the brothers and their companies, said they have been in touch with the attorney general’s office and were reviewing the complaint.

The attorney general’s office said the members-only travel club charged customers thousands of dollars for all-inclusive travel packages with names like “Unbelievable Italy” or “Mysteries of Morocco.” The packages promised to include airfare, hotel, airport-to-hotel transfers, dining, sight-seeing and in some cases, cruises.

The trips were marketed to individuals and groups including churches, educational institutions and chambers of commerce, among others.

Authorities said the companies continued to receive customer payments through October 2013 for trips the firm never booked, moves the firm made even though both companies had become insolvent and closed prior to that date. State consumer affairs officials said the brothers continued to pay themselves six-figure salaries, buy expensive cars and take monetary disbursements from the companies.

The state Division of Consumer Affairs received 230 complaints about the company totaling more than $1 million in losses, many from customers who paid in full for travel packages they will never receive.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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