Page 1 of 1

Shuttered travel agency leaves more victims

Posted: 23 Aug 2009 23:48
by ኦሽንoc
Shuttered travel agency leaves more victims

SEATTLE - More victims are surfacing in connection with a local travel agency that suddenly closed its doors earlier this summer - leaving an untold number of customers holding the bag.

Now the agency, Alem Travel, is at the center of a police investigation as detectives try to determine what happened to the business' owner and thousands of dollars in ticket money that simply vanished.
[center]Image
Aster Tareken says she is in shock after her ordeal.[/center]

Click here to Watch The News Video
For years Alem Travel has been the go-to travel agency for the Ethiopian community. But a few weeks ago, travelers bound for Ethiopia were shocked to learn the airline tickets they bought didn't exist and they were left in the lurch.

[center]Image
The agency's former offices at 1812 East Madison.[/center]
In a previous report, KOMO News talked to several victims who said they trusted the 12-year-old business at 1812 East Madison Street and the man who ran it - until he disappeared with their money.

Now even more victims are turning up.

Aster Tareken is one of them. She said she hasn't seen her daughter Bethlehem in two years. The 17-year-old is supposed to be home right now but instead she's stuck in Ethiopia. Her airline ticket is canceled.

Aster thinks her Seattle travel agent booked the ticket, canceled it and pocketed the refund.

Now she's out $1,650 and her daughter is stranded in Africa.

"What am I gonna do now? How am I gonna tell my daughter I feel really sorry for her? How am I gonna explain this to her?" Aster says.

Like the previous victims, Aster bought her ticket from Alem Travel.

KOMO News has tried repeatedly to contact Alem Travel in Seattle. But sources say the owner, Solomon Biruk, may be in Ethiopia.

Seattle police confirm that multiple victims have surfaced since KOMO News aired its original report on the agency and its victims.

Selamneh Ambaw is one of them. He got a confirmation number - and even a printed itinerary - for his planned trip in October to Ethiopia.

The airline said a reservation was made, but says the ticket was then canceled.

Selamneh says, "I said, 'Ah, this does not sound good.' I said, 'I can't seem to get a hold of this guy 'cause he's no longer around.'"

He lost $1,383, which he paid in cash.

"It's just very, very sad," he says. "Like I said, I just wonder what happened for him to do something like that."

All the travelers out of money said they've worked with Alem before and never had a problem. They and neighboring businesses are stumped.

Bryan Vehrs says, "He was one of the hardest-working people here, from my experience - was incredibly honest and ethical."

Aster and Selamneh both saved for their trips. Now Aster is borrowing money to get her daughter home.

KOMO News Problem Solvers also were contacted by a ticket consolidator in Washington, D.C., who said they sold Alem Travel 42 airline tickets and never got paid because, they allege, Alem used unauthorized credit cards.

source:KOMO news