Ark. AG suing travel agent

Bryan Cohen Jul. 11, 2012, 6:25am


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed a consumer protection lawsuit on Monday against a travel agent who allegedly collected money for travel services that were never provided.

Ope Saaga, the operator of Performing Hawaii Tours, allegedly collected close to $400,000 from Arkansas marching bands, but failed to deliver on promises of once-in-a-lifetime summer vacations to Hawaii. The alleged failure to provide the travel services paid for by the Fort Smith Southside High School and Spirit of Arkansas marching bands was in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Saaga allegedly received $134,480 from the eastern Arkansas-based Spirit of Arkansas and $262,500 from members of the Southside High School marching band for travel, activities and lodging in Hawaii. Saaga allegedly used the money received from the bands for purposes other than what they paid for.

Saaga allegedly offered lodging, airfare, a full-time tour guide, multiple destination tours and the chance for the bands to perform at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center as part of the tour package. In addition, Saaga allegedly promised travel insurance for the trip, which he failed to purchase with the funds he received from the bands.

"These students and their families deserved better than the empty promises they received from this travel agent," McDaniel said. "We share in the disappointment and frustration of those band members who worked so hard to raise money for this trip, and that's why we are asking the court to order restitution to the students and their families."

In April, Saaga told the Fort Smith Southside band of his inability to meet his obligations. He said in an email that he made terrible decisions connected to their pre-payments and promised that the money would be returned. No refunds have been received by either of the bands.

The lawsuit requests that the court order Saaga to pay civil penalties, fees and restitution.

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