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N4T Investigators: Consumer Fraud charge against tour operator - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Consumer Fraud charge against tour operator

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Tucson - Cienega High School graduates almost didn't make it to Disneyland last year. Their trip happened only after community donors stepped up. The buses from their tour operator, Senior Grad Trips, failed to show up. The 80 grads and their parents had paid the company and its owner, George Barragan, a total of $40,000.  Now, the Arizona Attorney General is accusing the parent company, EB Worldwide, and Barragan, of Consumer Fraud.

Mike Ulrich, whose daughter went on the delayed Cienega trip, said he's glad about the charges, adding,  "I think that it's been long enough. It's been about 14 months since Arizona students have been defrauded." Ulrich paid $500 as a graduation gift for his daughter, Patricia to go to Disneyland. She hopes the judge (who is not yet assigned) in the case makes Barragan pay. "I think it's a good thing," Patricia said about the charges."I hope he is finally punished for what he's done."

The Attorney General's Complaint, obtained exclusively by the News 4 Tucson Investigators, calls Barragan's actions, "Deceptive, unfair, or constituted fraud, false pretenses or misrepresentations." The A.G. asks the court to "pay restitution to consumers for the Cienega trip" and to "pay the State a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each violation."

A spokesperson for the A.G. wrote in an email, "Our attention was initially called to this matter because of KVOA's reporting."

Nemer Hassey, the Principal at Cienega High, said,of the charges against Barragan, "I'm really excited that they're moving forward on something and pushing this guy. This guy should not be in business and I would hope they continue to pursue him."

The News 4 Tucson Investigators spoke with Barragan on the phone when we first reported this story 14 months ago. He blamed the failure on a colleague and said he would refund the group's $40,000 "the next day."  

We called Barragan again this week but couldn't leave a message; his mailbox was full. His greeting said, "I'm out of the country."

A source sent us a photo of Barragan on May 24 at a nightclub in Cancun. We don't know where he is now, but investigators for the Attorneys General in Texas, where his business is based, and California, would like to find him. Thirty grads from La Serna High School in Whittier say Barragan left them stranded in June at Los Angeles International Airport. They say that when they got there, they found out that Barragan had not paid the airline or hotel. A Senior Grad Trips employee was the target of stranded students. They yelled at him, "Senior Grad Trips is a scam." They had each paid $1495 for the trip. That's almost $45,000.

High school graduates in Virginia and Pennsylvania were also left stranded by Barragan's company last year; no charges have been filed in those states. A spokesman for the Virginia attorney general said no complaints against Barragan have been received there. 

Mike Ulrich said, "George, it's time to pick up your phone, accept responsibility for what you've done, make things right and stop defrauding people. It is enough."

Filing these charges against Barragan is one thing; getting him to provide restitution to the alleged victims could be quite another. First, the authorities have to find him.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

To view the complete compliant by the Attorney General, click here.

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