BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley sued a Pittsfield-based discount travel company, its affiliate and their owners on Monday for allegedly misleading consumers with membership sales.

Berkshire Concepts LLC, Netrate Concepts LLC, CRW Marketing Inc. and the companies' owners, Charles Whiteman and Daniel Merritt, allegedly offered memberships to book travel at deeply discounted prices and charged thousands of dollars for benefits that were never provided or refunded. Coakley's office obtained a court order against the defendants to stop them from using allegedly deceptive marketing to sell travel memberships.

"Vacation or travel scams offer free or discounted deals that often never materialize, and our office alleges these companies stole thousands of dollars from consumers through their deceptive memberships," Coakley said. "While many travel opportunities are genuine, we want to educate the public as much as possible to protect themselves and be wary of deals that sound too good to be true."

Between February 2011 and April 2013, Berkshire and Netrate allegedly offered a free cruise or airline tickets in return for attending a presentation. When consumers arrived at the presentation, they allegedly learned the free travel required the payment of hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees. Berkshire and Netrate then allegedly charged thousands of dollars for access to a wholesale travel website that provided prices that were not lower than free travel websites like Orbitz and Expedia.

Coakley's lawsuit seeks more than $108,000 in restitution for at least 25 consumers and $170,000 in civil penalties.

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