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MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has announced that Outagamie County Circuit Judge Dee Dyer, in a consumer protection enforcement action brought by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, has ordered entry of a judgment totaling more than $4.8 million against a travel club business, Travel Services, Inc., located in Litchfield, Illinois, and its principals, William Bailey and Christy Spensberger, of Carlinville, Illinois. The judgment also will apply to the Wisconsin-based marketers of the memberships, Going Places Travel Corporation and its owners and operators, Perry Ruiz and Lisa Ruiz, of West Allis, Wisconsin.
The judgment includes approximately $3.8 million in restitution for consumers, $841,599 in forfeitures and assessments, and $215,042 to reimburse the State for the costs of its investigation and prosecution. The defendants will be jointly responsible for paying the judgment. The judgment also imposes a permanent injunction limiting the scope of their future business activities.
The judgment follows a trial in January 2014 during which a jury unanimously found that the defendants engaged in deceptive practices in the marketing of memberships in their travel clubs to Wisconsin consumers as well as other violations of state consumer protection laws. The two travel clubs at issue, Castaways Vacations Club and Phoenix Vacation Club, were created and operated by Travel Services, Inc. The sales were transacted at the offices of Going Places Travel in Brookfield and Appleton between 2006 and 2009.
The jury found, among other things, that documents produced by Travel Services, Inc. and provided to consumers contained untrue, deceptive or misleading representations regarding the discounts on travel available to club members, the geographic locations of the travel clubs, and the exclusive nature of the benefits available to club members. The defendants also were found liable for violations of Wisconsin’s prize notice law by failing to make required disclosures in the marketing postcards sent to consumers.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) started receiving consumer complaints about Going Places Travel and the clubs in 2007. Following an extensive investigation, DATCP referred the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for enforcement.
“Businesses that deceive consumers into parting with their hard-earned money should know that the State of Wisconsin does not tolerate such behavior,” Attorney General Van Hollen said. “This judgment against both the operators and marketers of membership travel clubs sends a strong message to would-be fraudsters – if you violate our consumer protection laws, we will hold you accountable.”
The State of Wisconsin was represented in this matter by Assistant Attorneys General Lewis Beilin, John Greene and Phillip Ferris, with substantial assistance from DATCP.