Our KELOLAND News investigation showed you how the man behind an out-of-state travel club got in trouble with the law when he came to South Dakota to sell memberships.
John Barze of Florida didn't offer consumers the three-day right to cancel as required by law.
But this isn't the first state Barze has been in trouble with.
Our investigation introduced you to a Sioux Falls couple who bought into the travel club which was selling memberships at the Spring Hill Suites in Sioux Falls.
They paid $6,000 to a company called American Travel Brokers, run by Barze. Only once they returned home, they regretted the purchase. The problem is, the contract they signed didn't include a three-day right to cancel. That's required by state law. So they called the South Dakota Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection. Barze was arrested and charged with two felonies for failing to inform them of their right to cancel and not providing the form.
But that's not the only legal issue he's facing. As we've uncovered, Barze is also being sued by the state of Washington for violating consumer laws there involving his travel clubs.
While John Barze has yet to face the charges against him in South Dakota, the Florida man is facing complaints from across the country.
Operating under City Travel Brokers, a Georgia couple wrote on Ripoff Report, a consumer advocacy website, when they tried to cancel their contract with the travel club within three days, but the company didn't respond.
They wrote, "John Barze informed my husband that it was a contract and that it was past the three-day window and basically we were stuck with it."
City Travel Brokers disputed that claim online.
However, a California couple also complained about City Travel Brokers and a salesman named John on Scambook.com. They also had trouble when they tried to cancel their purchase.
Operating under yet another business name, John Barze is accused of unfair, high-pressure sales tactics for travel club memberships and offering "guaranteed" prizes in the state of Washington.
The company that Barze sold memberships under there, is Destination Bon Voyage, LLC.
The Washington State Attorney General accuses Barze of having "participated in, had knowledge of and approved of the wrongful conduct" in the lawsuit.
It alleges that Barze and his associates named in the suit all worked together in the scheme.
Washington's Attorney General says Barze and the other defendants lured consumers in with the promise of expensive prizes, but first they had to attend a "high pressure sales presentation to purchase a travel club membership" and that consumers were promised "deep discounts on travel and a myriad of benefits."
The lawsuit alleges that "representation made in the promotional materials, the sales presentation and the purchase documents were simply false." And that Barze and the other defendants, "refused to respond to members' complaints, request to cancel contracts or requests to provide refunds."
Consumers got these VIP postcards, but the lawsuit says they were just mass mailings.
Consumers were offered big prizes such as cars, where it says "odds of winning car are incredible," but the fine print says otherwise.
Another prize, a 7-inch Wi-Fi tablet actually costs the consumer $69.95.
And prizes of $100 Best Buy Gift Cards were actually just worth $10.
During the sales pitch, consumers were offered discounts on travel of 30 to 70-percent.
Memberships in the club ranged from $4,900 to $6,900, plus a $199 processing fee and $199 in annual dues.
Only when consumers tried to use their memberships, the travel club's website didn't work properly and contained expired package tours and limited travel options. Consumers couldn't get return calls. While they had three days to cancel, the lawsuit alleges the company made it impossible to do so within the time frame and that defendants refused to provide refunds.
Washington State is seeking tens of thousands of dollars in damages in the lawsuit.
Our attempts to reach Barze by phone were unsuccessful, although I did speak with his mother who told me she didn't have a current number for him.
Barze has delayed two court dates in South Dakota and is now supposed to appear on those charges in July.
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