Matt Karkutt couldn't wait to see the lights, music and glitz of Broadway.
"You go to New York with a dream of seeing Broadway, and it's amazing when you get there," said Karkutt, a student at Gray's Creek High School in Hope Mills.
Karkutt loves theater. He was the lead in the school musical, so when drama teacher Liz Hurley mentioned a group trip to New York, Karkutt said, "Sign me up. I'm going."
Twenty students and six adults signed up each paying $550. Hurley arranged show tickets. She hired Reggie Thompson, owner of Cape Fear Coachlines, to take care of the bus ride and hotel. He was paid $4,050 up front.
"Reggie Thompson came highly recommended. He had taken a group from here to Washington so I talked to him," Hurley said. "It seemed like it would work out and be cheaper and more cost-effective for the kids."
However, the night they were supposed to leave, Thompson called Hurley, saying the hotel reservations were wrong.
"I was completely freaked out," Hurley said.
Hurley said she found out reservations were never even made. She said even after that issue was fixed, Thompson found other problems.
"Every problem we solved, he came up with a new one -- a new excuse why he couldn't pick us up and take us," Hurley said.
Finally at 3 a.m., Thompson said he was too tired to drive.
"It was very emotional. Everyone was kind of just very, very sad," Karkutt said.
When Thompson did not deliver a refund, Hurley called Five On Your Side.
"He crushed a lot of kids. I just want them to get their money back, at least. That's all I can do at this point," Hurley said.
Thompson told Five On Your Side he was waiting for money back from a reservations company. He would not give Five On Your Side that company's information, saying he did not want to get them into it. But the next week, he sent Hurley a check for $4,050.
Hurley was able to get money back for some of the activities she planned, but not for two Broadway shows and restaurant reservations. Each person lost about $150.
Thompson was in a similar situation last year. Another group won a judgment against him when he canceled a trip to New York.
Cumberland County schools told Five On Your Side had this been a school-sponsored trip, the school would have been in charge of all the contracts, including the collection of money and bookkeeping. It could also get involved if there's a problem.
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