N.J. lawmaker asks for Club ABC investigation

By Michelle Baran

New Jersey State Sen. Kevin O'Toole has called on the state's attorney general to launch a criminal and civil investigation into Club ABC Tours after the 45-year-old company abruptly ceased operations this month with hundreds of vacations still on the books.

"At minimum the reported actions of Club ABC Tours have the appearance of conspiracy, consumer fraud and theft," O'Toole said in a statement. "To read that this company left their unsuspecting customers stranded in foreign countries without accommodations while also charging the same customers for travel insurance shows they were willing to go to great lengths to leave no stone unturned in their attempts to perpetrate this apparent fraud."

Club ABC Tours, a direct-to-consumer, member-based vacation packager, was founded in 1966 and is owned by Crown Travel Service of Bloomfield, N.J.

The Better Business Bureau of New Jersey reported that the company ceased operations on Oct. 1 after numerous reports from concerned customers about canceled tours and nonresponsiveness by the company.

The company did not release any statement for days following those reports and only recently posted on its website, ClubABC.com, a notice that stated, "After almost 45 years of business, it is with deep regret that we must announce that our company has ceased operations."

The company advised customers to contact their travel insurance provider or credit card company to determine refund eligibility.

But those who purchased travel insurance through Club ABC Tours are not covered for the company's closure. Trip Mate is the claims administrator for the travel protection plan Club ABC Tours offered its customers, and the plan "does not cover loss caused by the company's default," according to Linda Finkle, executive vice president of Trip Mate.

Furthermore, many customers had paid for their trips in cash to obtain an incentive discount.

Customers have reported being out anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 on vacations that didn't materialize.

On Oct. 17, O'Toole, a three-term Republican, sent letters to both New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney asking that a criminal and civil investigation into Club ABC's owners be conducted for the "defrauding of over 200 customers."

Earlier this month, Robert Paris, co-president and an owner of Club ABC Tours (it is unclear whether Paris has ownership just of Club ABC Tours or of parent company Crown Travel, as well), emailed Travel Weekly that a statement about the company's operations was "forthcoming" but Travel Weekly never received that statement nor any other communication from the company despite repeated emails and calls.

"We hate what's transpired," Paris told the Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey earlier this month in what it described as a brief telephone interview. "We let them down." Paris has made no other statements.

Club ABC Tours sold air-inclusive packages to Europe and other international destinations. Members booked directly with Club ABC by phone, online or by mail.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly. 

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