"Deceptive", "unfair", "false pretenses" and "false promises" are just some of the words used by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in an 11-page consumer fraud lawsuit to describe the business practices of Arch Vacations.
“What’s happening is wrong,” said former employee Yvonda Schermerhorn.
Former employees of Arch Vacations told 12 News two weeks ago that they believed customers paid thousands of dollars for trips that may not be booked.
“These clients and customers that we’ve built rapport with and earned their trust are trusting us and they’re being taken advantage of,” said former employee Shannon Widmer.
Customers like Karen Swope.
“They told me they had a 10-day cruise to the Mediterranean,” said Swope.
That was over a year ago.
With more than $6457 spent, Swope has yet to take her trip or receive a refund.
Just last month, she won a judgment in small claims court in California against Arch Vacations. But still -- no money.
She talked with 12 News Today about the Arizona attorney general’s consumer fraud lawsuit.
“Absolute relief and a little bit of a sense of victory,” said Swope.
The employees we spoke with still have to go through the Department of Labor to get the wages they say Arch Vacations owes them.
“Give them what they paid for, but at the same time, give us what we’ve worked for,” said Schermerhorn.
“And then never do this to anybody else ever again,” said Nancy Foster, also a former employee.
Arch Vacations appeared locked up at its business address when 12 News stopped by last month.
The company’s president, Darlene Ziebell, listed in the lawsuit, wouldn’t come to the door when we tried to speak with her at that time.
Later that day, after numerous phone calls, Call 12 for Action received an email -- asking to submit our questions in writing.
So we did. We received this response, in part:
“We anticipate we will be able to mail any outstanding paychecks by certified mail within the next three weeks. In the meantime, we are working as quickly as possible to address the issues that have led to the delays and are providing frequent updates to the affected individuals.”
The response went on to address vacation packages consumers have already paid for:
“We are in regular communication with our existing clients to coordinate and complete their travels. Our payment processing issues do not affect existing travel plans or service.”
But now, Darlene Ziebell and Arch Vacations will have to answer to the Arizona Attorney General’s office.
For Karen Swope, that means there’s hope.
“Even after all this, I still have hope that I will get my money back,” said Swope.
The Arizona Attorney General’s office says Arch Vacations will now have to hire an attorney and respond to today’s filing. Then a trial date will be set.
At that point, the company can settle, which would include money back to consumers and a fine.
Or the company can go to trial and let a judge decide.
12 News reached out to Arch Vacations to get a comment on today’s lawsuit.
The company's president, Darlene Ziebell, sent a more than two-page statement, basically saying they plan to fully investigate the attorney general's allegations to determine whether any of them have merit.
If you'd like to read the full statement, you can read it here.
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