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June 2003 Vol. 18, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Scubascam Lingers On

from the June, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Again we have to warn divers of a scubascam, involving a Toronto team that continues to rip off American divers. Last year we recounted the story of Harry Hanes (Tombstone, AZ) who booked a Havana live-aboard through Scubacan, only to be told upon his arrival that Scubacan was in arrears for previous bookings, so the boat operator refused to sail. After months of threats, Hanes succeeded in winning a judgment against Scubacan honcho, Keith Bolender. However, Hanes' Canadian attorney has been unable to find Bolender to collect.

But we found him. He has resurfaced as Caribbean Trip N Tours, and Jan Pehrson (Sausalito, CA) is a new victim. She and a friend had taken a Scubacan diving trip in 2001, so they organized a return visit for a group. In December Pehrson's group sent nonrefundable deposits for their April booking. She didn't know, however, that Bolender and his business partner, Antonio Avella, had been charged by the Ontario Travel Industry Council (TICO) with illegally acting as a travel agents.

For the next month, Bolender ignored Pehrson's phone and email messages, finally writing in January that he had had a heart attack and phone problems. Given further assurances that everything was on track, Pehrson's group completed their $17,438 in payments to Bolender.

A month before the April departure date, Bolender informed her that a travel agency he had used to book the group's L.A. to Havana airfare had "screwed up" and there were no seats for her group. Bolender contended that he couldn't confirm hotels, diving, and connecting flights until the initial airline booking was resolved. Exasperated and suspicious, Pehrson demanded a refund. It hasn't come.

Pehrson has lodged complaints with TICO and the Toronto Police Fraud Squad. TICO has filed charges against Bolender and Avella, as well as Caribbean Trip N Tours, and the Fraud Squad is reviewing Pehrson's complaint. Yet the unsinkable Keith Bolender is still out there. Divers beware.

P.S.: Had Jan Pehrson or any of her pals been subscribers to Undercurrent, she would have read of Bolender's fraudulent activities and gone diving elsewhere. We're sending her a free subscription.

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