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State joins probe of travel agency

February 03, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

The Maryland Attorney General's Office will join local police in investigating complaints that a Hagerstown travel agency was given payment for hundreds of vacations that weren't delivered, a local police official said Thursday.

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Police have been trying to sort out what happened at CW Travel to give rise to the complaints and to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted, said Hagerstown City Police Lt. Gary Spielman.

"The big questions are what happened to the money and why wasn't it put to the proper place," Spielman said.

The Hagerstown Police Department has received a flood of calls from individuals and representatives of groups claiming they paid CW Travel to arrange cruises, airfare and other accommodations that weren't delivered, according to Spielman.

The list of alleged victims numbers in the hundreds, he said.

Those complaining include a Fairplay NASCAR fan who planned a Las Vegas weekend trip for 92 people around a big race in March and a Falling Waters, W.Va., businessman who got 14 family members and friends to piggyback onto a Martinsburg, W.Va., travel club's cruise deal.

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Between those two groups, nearly 350 people, including about 230 from the travel club, paid almost $200,000 for trips it appears they won't be getting, group organizers claim.

It's not a simple matter for police to sort out, Spielman said.

The situation might be a civil matter rather than a criminal one, he said.

The Attorney General's Office handles both types of cases, Spielman said.

While Attorney General's Office investigators will take the lead in the case, the Hagerstown Police Department will continue to play an active role, he said.

CW Travel owner Michael M. Pishvaian said he has closed the agency, at 29-33 E. Washington St., permanently because of the problems there.

Pishvaian said Thursday that he hasn't been able to offer the agency's customers answers because he doesn't have them himself.

He said he was an absentee owner of the agency and left oversight to his general manager, Rebecca Price.

As of Thursday, Pishvaian said he hadn't been able to talk to Price to sort out what happened.

Price has been available to police and was cooperative when interviewed Wednesday, Spielman said.

The Herald-Mail's efforts to reach Price for comment have been unsuccessful.

A local telephone listing for Price wasn't available.

Several messages left on her cellular phone answering machine Tuesday and Wednesday were not returned. The cellular phone number was busy in several attempts on Thursday.

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