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Associated Press – October 3, 2007
TRENTON, N.J. – A travel agency is accused of charging more than 50 Muslims thousands of dollars on a Mecca pilgrimage tour only to leave them standing in airports at the last minute without tickets.
The state attorney general’s Office alleges Shama Hajj Ziyarat Tours L.L.C. and its owner, Molana Syed Alihaider Abidi, violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by selling the trip packages to Saudi Arabia, then failing to provide either the tour or a refund.
The state wants the company, which also does business as Karwan-E-Iman-E-Sajjad (USA), to give refunds.
“These last minute cancellations without explanation cost consumers thousands of dollars and prevented them from making a pilgrimage to Mecca,” Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a statement.
A man who answered the telephone at the travel agency who identified himself as Abidi’s son wouldn’t answer questions. He directed all inquiries to Thomas Monahan, a lawyer representing the agency. Monahan didn’t return telephone calls seeking comment Wednesday.
The complaint alleges that the travel agency’s Hajj Travel Package was supposed to include round-trip airfare to Saudi Arabia, hotel accommodations and travel within the Arab kingdom. The trips cost $4,500, and some customers paid an additional $1,000 for upgraded hotels, according to the attorney general’s office.
The customers were supposed to leave Dec. 20, 2006, and return Jan. 4. But when they arrived at airports around the country, they discovered there were no tickets waiting for them.
During the next few days, the agency told the customers the tour had been canceled. A few of the customers received partial refunds of $1,000 but most never received any money.
Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life. Around 4 million people make the trip every year.
The travel agency has been advertising for hajj tours that would leave this December, but a judge ruled Friday that it must stop advertising and selling the 2007 trips.
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