Clients accuse Philly travel agent of not delivering on trips

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Clients accuse Philly travel agent of taking their money. Wendy Saltzman reports on Action News at 11 p.m. on October 27, 2017. (WPVI)

A Philadelphia travel agent has allegedly lined her pockets with cash, but did not deliver on her promises.

Victims' claim they were taken by a woman who sold them lies.

Stephanie Claiborne touts herself as the owner of a successful dance studio, who apparently has a side hustle selling trips, sometimes to parents of her students.

But we've discovered more than a dozen unhappy customers, many single mothers and the elderly, who have taken Claiborne to court, claiming she sold them shady travel deals.

Claiborne's dance team dripped with glitz and glamor, but these women believe the bright lights of Claiborne's dance school, covered up what was happening behind the scenes.

"How's she's getting away with it," Ayana Reel said.

Reel had previously been on a trip Claiborne organized. Her daughter Sydira was part of the dance school and it was there she saw a flier about a trip to Puerto Rico and she jumped on board to sign up for her daughter's birthday.

"She only quoted us seven hundred dollars per person," Reel said.

But two weeks before she was to fly off to paradise, she called the airline and "Nothing had been booked at all," Reel said.

She filed a small claims case against Claiborne, and was awarded a $1722 judgement against her.

It's a similar story to Marguerite Ruff, "You're like oh that's real cheap."

Ruff convinced eleven people to go on a trip to the Las Vegas Soul Train Awards.

Victim Delores Samuels said, "When we called the airline they had no record of us. We called the hotel, they said we don't have any reservations here for you."

Gayle Garrett, another victim said, "I get to the airport and I couldn't get on the plane."

Five of the eleven never made it to Vegas. And for the six who did go when they arrived at the Soul Train awards, "There were not tickets for us," said victim Wilma Henderson

"I just started bawling," Ruff said.

A manager finally gave them complimentary entry tickets, but Glady's Cruz says she wasn't so lucky on the trip she booked for her kids to Disney World.

"I was like Stephanie you know. Don't do this, I trusted you." Cruz said.

Cruz, a single mother, says she paid Claiborne, "$3300."

But the morning they were supposed to leave, she says there was no bus, and no trip.

"My children already realized we weren't going, so everyone's crying. I'm upset," said Cruz.

Lance Haver, Director of Civic Engagement, City of Philadelphia said, "Unfortunately low level thefts -thefts below $10,000 often don't get prosecuted."

Haver says these women may be able to get compensation from the victim's compensation fund.

"If you could show that over a 10 year period this person has continued the same behavior time and time again that talks to it being a criminal act as opposed to it being a bad business person," Haver said.

Action News found a list of 15 small claims lawsuits against Claiborne, amounting to more than $15,000 in judgements against her going back as far as 2005.

When we went to speak with Claiborne she refused to respond.

"This ridiculous lady is still doing this," victim Connie Jackson said.

The deputies seized some of Claiborne's belongings to as possible restitution for Connie Jackson's win against Claiborne in small claims court. But that's little payment for the heartaches these women say she caused so many.

"That's the only way she's gonna stop if she is imprisoned," added Cruz.

Lance Haver is going to try to work with the women we spoke with, and any other people who say they have been defrauded out of money by Claiborne. He says there is more power in numbers, and while he doesn't know if she will be prosecuted, he may be able to help get them their money.
For more news and updates to her investigations, be sure to follow Wendy Saltzman on Facebook.

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