Nationwide Vacation Prize Scheme Targeted Spanish-Speaking Consumers
WASHINGTON, DC (February 29, 2012) — The operators behind a vacation prize scheme are banned from selling vacation packages under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office, which charged the defendants with tricking consumers into believing they had won a vacation package as a prize, and then failing to provide the package as promised. The settlements resolve the case, which was brought as part of the FTC’s Hispanic Law Enforcement Initiative.
According to the complaint filed in May 2011, the defendants advertised a vacation package worth thousands of dollars as a prize to consumers who called a toll-free number and answered a trivia question. Callers were told they had won, and that if they paid up to $400 in “taxes” or “fees” they would receive their prize. The complaint alleged that callers did not receive the vacation packages as promised. The FTC and the Florida Attorney General’s Office charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, respectively.
“By working closely with the Federal Trade Commission, our two agencies have stopped this business from deceiving consumers,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said. “This is an excellent example of state and federal agencies working together to protect consumers.”
The defendants are VGC Corporation of America, also doing business as All Dream(s) Vacations, All Dreams Travel, Five Star(s) Vacations, 5 Star(s) Vacations, Total Tours, and Travel & Tours Corp.; All Dream Vacations Corp., also doing business as All Dreams Vacations; Violeta Gonzalez, also known as Violeta Rojas; Cesar A. Gonzalez; and Samir Jose Saer Rodriguez, also known as Samir Saer.
In addition to banning the defendants from the marketing and sale of vacation packages, the settlement orders permanently prohibit them from misrepresenting material facts about any good or service, and from failing to disclose any material conditions to buy, receive, or use any good or service. The defendants also are barred from collecting payments from their customers who responded to the offer before the date of the order, using or selling those customers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of customer information. The orders also impose a judgment of more than $14 million, which will be suspended on the satisfaction of numerous terms and conditions designed to ensure that the defendants will be stripped of all of their assets of value. The full judgment will be imposed immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The FTC gratefully acknowledges the hard work and cooperation of its partner and co-plaintiff, the Florida Attorney General’s Office. The FTC also appreciates the assistance of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Better Business Bureau Serving Southeast Florida and the Caribbean.
The Commission vote approving the proposed consent orders was 4-0. The FTC and the State of Florida filed the proposed consent orders in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The orders were entered by the court on February 17, 2012.
NOTE: The consent orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants that the law has been violated. Consent orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.