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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Vacation to nowhere

Updated: Friday, January 30 2015, 09:20 AM EST
CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- Dozens of people put too much faith in their travel agent, much to their regret.

The Vatican is home to the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures.  So, when a travel company called "Christian Pilgrims" began advertising in church bulletins about the trip of a lifetime it was very alluring.

Al Herzog, US Postal Inspector said, "The travel company arranged for trips to Rome, Poland and other religious spots in Europe."

The cost was between 3,000 and 10,000 dollars depending on the tour.  As the brochure shows the founder of Christian Pilgrims, 75-year-old John Baird, ran many successful excursions.

Herzog said, "In brochures he portrayed himself to be very well connected to the Vatican.  Some of these brochures not only had pictures of him from previous trips that did happen but pictures of himself with Pope John Paul."

Then, something went wrong, "At some point in time, he began to encounter person and business financial problems.  When that happened trips didn't happen."

Customers were left with no trip and no refund.  In fact, more than 50 victims lost $400,000 dollars.

Al Herzog tells us, "Some of these people actually went to the airport the day they were supposed to leave and found out that there was no trip to go on because there was no one to meet them there with their tickets."

One lesson from this case, always report situations like this one to authorities including postal inspectors.

"This case started with people making complaints to us, people who lost money.  Those peoples saved all of their documentation, they made notes of their correspondence with the defendant and all of that information was invaluable in the investigating case in proving that people were lied to," Herzog said.

With help from the victims, postal inspectors were able to build a case against John Baird.  Baird is now serving a 5 year prison term and has been ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Vacation to nowhere

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