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Division of Consumer Affairs
Press Release

Attorney General
Anne Milgram
Division of Consumer Affairs, Director
David Szuchman
   
For Immediate Release:
March 6, 2009
For Further Information Contact:
Jeff Lamm, 973-504-6327
 
Woodbridge Travel Agency to Pay $276,077 in Consumer Restitution As Part of Settlement with the State

NEWARK - A Woodbridge travel agency that sold travel packages for religious pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that were never provided will pay $276,077 in reimbursement to consumers, under terms of a Consent Judgment that settles a lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs.

Shama Hajj Ziyarat Tours, L.L.C., also doing business as Karwan-E-Iman-E-Sajjad (USA), and its owner, Molana Syed Alihaider Abidi. are barred from advertising or selling any travel packages to Saudi Arabia, under terms of the Consent Judgment. The defendants also agreed to comply with the state's Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations in future transactions.

The defendants will pay an initial $50,000 in reimbursement in installments over the next five years. The $226,077 balance will be paid based on certified financial data to be provided by the defendants annually.

"This travel agency defrauded at least 56 consumers who found out at the last minute, some upon arrival at the airport, that their pilgrimages to Mecca were not booked," Attorney General Anne Milgram said.

The defendants also were assessed $500,000 in civil penalties, plus $67,223 in legal and investigative cost reimbursements to the state. These assessments were suspended because of the defendants' demonstrated financial hardship but can be reinstated if the defendants do not honor the terms of the Consent Judgment.

"Our focus is on the victims of this fraud and getting reimbursement to them" said David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director. "This case is a clarion call to all businesses that we will not tolerate fraud committed against consumers and that we will take legal action when our consumer protection laws are broken."

If defendants commence operating any new business in New Jersey, they are required to post a bond of at least $250,000 or 10% of their prior year's gross income, which ever is greater. The bond must be maintained at this level for at least five years, after which time the bond amount will be reduced.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section represented the state in this action.

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