Defunct Long Island Travel Agency To Make Refunds

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with a defunct Long Island travel company to provide full monetary refunds to dozens of consumers, many of them seniors, whose scheduled tours last spring were suddenly cancelled.

"My office will monitor this case closely to ensure that this travel agency's promised refunds are forthcoming," Spitzer said.

Good Friends Travel Club, Inc. was a Farmingdale-based travel agency that engaged primarily in the business of organizing tours. The firm organized a tour for 37 consumers who each paid between $259 and $329 to travel in April 2001 to Amish Country in Pennsylvania. At about the same time, Good Friends Travel scheduled a second trip, this one for approximately 60 consumers at a price of $69 per person to a Westchester Dinner theater for May 2001.

Shortly before the tours were to take place, representatives of Good Friends Travel informed consumers that both trips had been cancelled without explanation and without providing refunds.

After unsuccessfully requesting their money back, several consumers took their cases to Small Claims Court and won judgments against Good Friends Travel; however, most encountered great difficulty in trying to collect on the debt.

In July 2001, the Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs found the company guilty of "unconscionable trade practices," levied a fine of $2,500, and instructed the firm to offer each client a voucher for a future trip equivalent to the monetary value owed or a refund if the client did not want the voucher.

Good Friends Travel did not pay the fine, nor did it offer refunds as directed.

In response to consumer complaints, Spitzer's office opened an investigation into Good Friends Travel and its owner, Bill Stoudt - who also owns another local travel agency, Moody's Travel. Both Good Friends Travel and Moody's operated out of the same Farmingdale address.

The investigation revealed that, of the affected consumers, only 30 had received refunds; eleven exercised the voucher option; and the remaining 56 consumers had unwanted and unused vouchers.

Under the settlement with Spitzer's office, Good Friends Travel is required to offer a monetary refund to those consumers who request it. The company will pay $3,000 to cover civil penalties and costs. Stoudt, himself, is personally liable for each of these obligations.

Individuals with questions or complaints regarding Good Friends Travel are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

The case was handled by Juan Merchan, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of Public Advocacy for Long Island and Investigator Angel Rivera, under the supervision of Ron Turbin, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Nassau County Regional Office.