Attorney General reopens investigation into DeKalb travel agent - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Attorney General reopens investigation into DeKalb travel agent

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A local travel agency owner, who's been ordered by the Attorney General's office to clean up his act, is facing the same complaints again.  First, there were Girl Scouts then church ladies and now a family planning a cruise that says its out $21,000. 

The Gordon family planned for a year for a 40-person family cruise.  The trip didn't happen, and they claim they never got a refund. They are so upset they made the trip here from Nashville to tell their story.

They started with a prayer before walking into Fox 5.

"We just ask Father God that as we go into here to share our story Father God, that you will be in the midst....." 

Then they got spirited.

"Alright, let's work it out."

The Gordon family has grace. They are mighty calm after losing out on what they call a once-in-a-lifetime family trip, and a great deal of money. They told state investigators they sent their travel agent about $21,000.

  Marsha' Gordon says, "And he cashed those checks."

 He is Lee Benton of Benton Group Travel. And they tell their story of paying him this huge chunk of money for a cruise to the Bahamas to anybody who will listen - the Better Business Bureau, the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection and the DeKalb County police.  

If only they knew beforehand that Benton Group Travel not only has an "F" rating at the BBB but an "alert" about Benton's history of booking trips, canceling them, with no refunds. Or that the AG's office has ordered him before to stop violating the Fair Business Practice Act.

But they didn't.

The group told state investigators they started paying Mr. Benton's travel agency in April of last year. They say they sent in payments month after month. The Gordon family was supposed to set sail on a Royal Caribbean cruise just a few weeks ago - June 30th.  Marsha' Gordon says she had already checked-in online and had her ship boarding pass.

"I got my set sail, my room, cabin number, everything."

But, then, others had trouble finding all of their 17 rooms when they logged onto Royal Caribbean's Web site.

Shemika Gordon says it was now June 14th, so she called Mr. Benton.

"He made it appear to me that the cruise line did something. That they had over booked the cruise."

Another cousin chimed in quickly, "And that he was still trying to work on another cruise ship, different dates, still playing the game of trying to accommodate us."

They say they were confused because online there were plenty of rooms still available. This time they skipped their travel agent and went straight to the cruise line.

"They told us that he canceled the cruise in May, and basically, that only a percentage of the money had been sent to the cruise," said Marsha' Gordon.

Benton Group Travel - also called Benton Travel and Cruises - only has a Post Office box, so the I-Team went to Mr. Benton's home.

No answer. But no one answered last summer when we wondered a group of Girl Scouts never made it to Disney World when they paid him for the trip.  And no one answered in January when we tried to ask him about a group of church ladies who say their September trip with Lee Benton to Florida's Holy Land Experience resort got canceled. 

Court documents show the Office of Consumer Protection and the Attorney General got Lee Benton to agree in a Final Order to repay a few of his victims, including the Scouts.  The Scout leader says she's still waiting for her money.  On the week they should have been cruising, the Gordons stopped by Fox 5 to tell their story on their way to the beach. Not the trip they planned, but they're not quitters. They filled that week with a lot of fun at the beach.

This was the new plan.

"Party. Have fun. Just eat. Yeah," 

The AG's office has re-opened its case against Lee Benton.



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