A.G. Schneiderman Wins Lawsuit Against Southern Tier Travel Agency That Ripped Off Travelers
Travel Company Duped Consumers by Requiring Advanced Payment While Failing to Provide Travel Packages
Couple Celebrating 50th Wedding Anniversary Pre-Paid for Cruise Never Taken
BINGHAMTON - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced his office has successfully sued a travel agency that took thousands of dollars from consumers but failed to deliver the travel packages, cruises and other travel accommodations agreed upon. A judgment has ruled that Romano Travel, Inc. and its owners, Gail Romano and Gary Swatling, must pay more than 69 consumers restitution in the amount of $114,442.20.
"Romano Travel duped consumers who paid significant amounts of money for vacations, months in advance, only to find out weeks before their travel dates, there would be no trip," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Due to consumers coming forward and our vigorous investigation, this company will no longer be allowed to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers."
Since January 2009, the owners of Roman Travel induced consumers to pay many months in advance for cruises and other vacations they were planning. When it came time for the consumers to pick up their travel documents shortly before the trips, Romano made various excuses why they could not go, including claims that the ships were "overbooked" and the consumers were on a "waiting list." In fact, Romano Travel never paid the cruise lines or other providers for these trips leaving the consumers without their trips or their money.
In one instance, a couple planning their 50th wedding anniversary signed up with Romano Travel almost one year in advance for a cruise. They found out approximately two weeks before they were scheduled to sail that Romano had never paid the cruise lines and they were not going to be able to go. They were forced to find another travel agent and pay a second time for the cruise in order to celebrate their milestone.
Romano Travel had offices in Waverly, Endwell and Ithaca. Consumer impacted were from Broome, Tioga, Steuben, Seneca and Chemung Counties in New York and Bradford County in Pennsylvania.
Romano and Swatling abruptly closed their offices in May 2010 leaving dozens of consumers stuck with no vacations and only promises of refunds. They never made these refunds. Additionally, some consumers, who had purchased travel insurance, attempted to make claims for refunds, but were denied because they were told there was no coverage.
As a part of the order Judge M. John Sherman of the Supreme Court of Tioga County issued an injunction preventing Romano Travel, Inc., Gail Romano and Gary Swatling from engaging in the travel agency business in the State of New York until they post a $250,000 bond and pay civil penalties of $118,000. The Court also awarded a judgment for restitution to victims in the amount of $114,442.20.
The Court also provided additional time for any other injured consumers to file restitution claims with Attorney General Schneiderman's Office. Consumers may file restitution claims with the Binghamton Regional Office at 44 Hawley St., 17th Floor, Binghamton, NY or by calling (607) 721-8771.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael J. Danaher, Jr. under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of the Binghamton Regional Office Dennis C. McCabe.