Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against a Cook County man and his company for allegedly deceptively advertising for sale a religious pilgrimage to a shrine in Mexico City and then failing to purchase the tickets and accommodations as advertised.
Two Peoria-area consumers, including an 83-year-old woman, complained to Madigan’s office after they paid the defendant more than $6,000 for a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The pilgrimage never occurred and the defendant reportedly refused to refund the payments and even refused to tell one of the consumers who bought trip cancellation insurance how to access the insurance.
Madigan’s lawsuit names Lance Bachli, of Des Plaines, and his company, United Products and Services Inc. Bachli runs the business out of his home. United Products, which was incorporated in Illinois in July 1987, markets and promotes various goods and services including, but not limited to, travel services.
According to complaints received by Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau, two Peoria residents contacted Bachli in January 2002 to arrange a pilgrimage to the Guadalupe shrine for themselves and their grandchildren. Bachli quoted a price of $995 per person, plus an airport tax of $100 and optional travel insurance for an addition $139.
Bachli allegedly informed the consumers he would need to secure between 18-28 additional passengers to obtain group travel rates. In an effort to sign up additional travelers, Bachli allegedly advertised the trip in the Peoria Catholic Post and printed brochures for the consumers to distribute among friends and fellow church members.
However, the original October 2002 trip was pushed back to November 2002 and then February 2003 before finally being postponed indefinitely. Numerous attempts by both consumers and Madigan’s office to obtain a refund for the money already paid for the consumers and their grandchildren to go on the trip – $2,540 by one consumer and $3,612 by the other – have not been successful.
“Mr. Bachli took advantage of the consumers’ faith and their desire to visit a location that holds special religious meaning to them,” Madigan said. “He took these consumers on a trip, but it certainly was not what they had hoped and saved for.”
In addition to failing to provide refunds when the trip was cancelled, Bachli allegedly represented to the consumers that another travel agency, RM Tours or Regina Tours, would be making the travel arrangements and that he would promote the trip as an intermediary. In his advertisements and brochures, Bachli listed the name and telephone number of the travel agencies. However, the contact information Bachli provided for the other agencies was in fact the contact information for the United Products office.
Madigan’s lawsuit alleges Bachli served as a travel promoter, as defined under Illinois law, and therefore was responsible for maintaining a trust account as required by the Illinois Travel Promotion Act.
Finally, one of the consumers alleged that even though she paid extra money to purchase the travel insurance Bachli refused to furnish the name of the insurance company or provide a copy of the policy.
Madigan’s lawsuit charges Bachli and United Products with multiple violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Illinois Travel Promotion Consumer Protection Act.
Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to prohibit the defendants from advertising, offering for sale, contracting for, or selling travel-related services, and from further violating Illinois’ consumer protection laws. In addition, the lawsuit asks the court to assess a civil penalty of $50,000, and additional penalties of $50,000 per violation found to be committed with the intent to defraud.
The complaint also seeks $10,000 per violation found to have been committed against a person 65 years of age or older. Finally, Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants to pay restitution to the consumers.
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