Travel Club Scammer Sentenced To 7 Years Behind Bars

We told you last summer about the New Jersey couple who pleaded guilty to charges they swindled millions of dollars from consumers through bogus “travel clubs” that promised discount travel deals but never delivered. Today, the husband was sentenced to seven years in prison while his wife got off with five years of probation.

To bring newcomers up to speed, for several years the couple operated fake travel clubs under a variety of names, including Dreamworks Vacation Club, Bentley Travel, Modern Destinations Unlimited, Blue Water Gateway, Five Points Travel Company, La Bonne Vie Travel and Vacation Clubs LLC.

They would lure unwitting consumers into 90-minute sales presentations for these clubs with the promise of a free cruise or other perk for attending. At the sales pitch, people were given the bad news that the cruise wasn’t free but would actually cost hundreds of dollars in fees and taxes.

Even then, some people would continue on with the scam, figuring that these costs were still less than they’d otherwise pay for the same trip.

All was revealed when the victims eventually realized that every date they wished to travel on just happened to be blacked out.

The couple had been running this scam since at least 2009. In 2011, they settled with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and agreed to pay $2.2 million in restitution to victims and to stop operating these travel clubs.

Except they must have had their fingers crossed when they made that promise, because these bogus travel clubs kept popping up all over the Mid-Atlantic and into New England.

“After law enforcement shut down [defendant Daryl] Turner’s shady travel companies, he opened a new one and went back to his old tricks,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By sending Turner to prison, we have ended his fraud spree and warned the public that this is not a man you want to trust with your money.”

After the 2011 settlement, authorities in NJ put a lien on the couple’s $751,300 home and seized eight bank accounts, five luxury cars including a Ferrari and a Bentley, and the requisite speedboat that all big-time scammers must buy so that its seizure by law enforcement can later be mentioned.

As part of the 2013 plea deal, the couple will turn over the home and other assets to help pay their $2.6 million restitution tab.

Consumerist’s Karin Price Mueller, who has been following this story for years with the Newark Star-Ledger, talked to some of the couple’s victims about the sentencing.

“I’m proud of the state,” one travel club victim tells the Star-Ledger. “Seven years is good. He’s not going to get his cappuccinos and steak and martinis.”

Travel club con-artist books trip to prison after stealing millions; wife receives probation [NJ.com]