DENVER—Denver District Court Judge Robert McGahey ordered Sea to Ski Vacations and its owners Andrew Wunder, Bethany Wunder, Christian Wunder, and Stephen Wunder, (a/k/a Mark Dutell, Stephen Andrews, Michael Miller, Andrew Stephens, and Bethany Gonsowski), to pay more than $7.0 million in penalties and restitution to consumers for violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. Additionally, Judge McGahey prohibited the Wunders from owning, managing, or operating travel-related businesses again because of their deceptive business practices.
“Consumers complained that they were told membership in the travel club would entitle them to deep discounts on condos and cruises,” said Attorney General John Suthers. “Yet, after paying as much as $9,000 for a membership, the Sea to Ski ‘deals’ were no better than what the consumer could purchase on popular internet travel sites. We proved that the Wunders were operating a scam,” concluded Suthers.
According to testimony from ex-employee witnesses, Sea to Ski employees regularly used Expedia and Priceline to book travel while pretending to be working with an exclusive provider of travel services. The Wunders sold their memberships throughout the United States, however, memberships in Colorado were sold through local distributors Traditions Travel and Vacation Junkies, often at the Sea to Ski office at 11570 Colony Row in Broomfield.
Sea to Ski attracted its customers by mailing postcards claiming that the recipient had won two free airline tickets. The “free airline ticket” offers often require substantial up-front fees, and such onerous travel restrictions that consumers are unable to redeem the travel vouchers. American Airlines sued the Wunders for copyright infringement for the unlawful use of their logo.
The court’s order arises out of a June 6, 2013 filing by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office wherein the state alleged the Wunders misrepresented the benefits of their travel club. Although not subject to the judgment, the Wunders also ran other travel companies, including American Travel Planners, from which they are now prohibited from operating.
The Colorado Attorney General warns that similar postcards using the Southwest, United, and Delta logos have also been used to attract consumers to other travel club presentations. The Colorado Attorney General cautions consumers to carefully read any fine print or conditions attached to “free” offers received by mail or email. Anyone who believes they may have been scammed is encouraged to file a complaint by calling the Colorado Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-222-4444 or clicking.
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