BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey is going after an online travel agency that she said ripped off travelers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“BookIt[.com] pocketed that money, didn’t pay it over to the hotels and resorts, and never gave it back to consumers,” Healey said.
Healey’s office filed a lawsuit Thursday that accused the Florida-based BookIt Operating LLC and its CEO and director Arthur Paul Finlaw of suspending business operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic but continuing to take payments from customers for planned vacations.
“They never should have taken that money in the first place because they knew, this company knew that those trips were never going to happen,” Healey said. “BookIt pocketed that money, didn’t pay it over to the hotels and resorts, and never gave it back to consumers.”
25 Investigates reported in April hundreds of customers complained of losing thousands of dollars when the company suddenly shut down services in March.
“That’s why we’ve taken them to court. We want to get restitution, we want to get money back from consumers,” Healey said.
Jenna Remsburg in Derry, New Hampshire said she was burned by BookIt after she used the site to plan her destination wedding in November.
She said she and her bridesmaids are out $3,200.
“I’m more hurt than angry because I think they’re trying to use the pandemic as a reason why they stole everyone’s money,” Remsburg said in April.
A message on the website warns consumers the company is “currently unable to process refunds.”
A spokesperson for the Florida Attorney General Office’s said the office has received more than 600 complaints about the Panama City-based company.
Flordia investigators served the company with a subpoena, the spokesperson said in April.
Bob McNamara of Millbury began paying BookIt.com in 2019 for a family vacation to Jamaica this spring.
“Basically we were told [by BookIt.com] we’re on our own. We have to get it back from our own credit card company,” McNamara said in April.
He said his family was out $3,500.
“The site had pretty much just shut down…Essentially they have vanished. Like, there’s no one at their building in Florida, there’s no number to call. They just said, ‘Good luck,” McNamara said.
McNamara and Remsburg shared their stories in the Facebook group “Scammed by Book It,” which now has 2,300 members.
Healey admitted it will be harder to get restitution if BookIt files for bankruptcy protection.
Neither the company nor its CEO have filed for bankruptcy, according to a PACER search in U.S. District Court.
The Florida Attorney General’s office told 25 Investigates their office has received more than 600 complaints against the company.
McNamara said in April he didn’t have a lot of hope of recouping his money.
“It’s just a waiting game right now. We’re starting to think more and more, wow, we really might not get this money back,” McNamara said.
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