Prosecutors have charged a Woodbridge travel agency with fraud for allegedly bilking Muslims wishing to make the pilgrimage to Mecca known as the hajj.
The state Attorney General's Office claims Shama Hajj Ziyarat Tours, L.L.C., and its owner, Molana Syed Alihaider Abidi, violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act by selling more than 50 customers trips to Saudi Arabia for thousands of dollars then failing to provide a tour or a refund.
The state wants the company, which also does business as Karwan-E-Iman-E-Sajjad (USA), to give refunds to the customers.
"These last minute cancellations without explanation cost consumers thousands of dollars and prevented them from making a pilgrimage to Mecca," Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a statement.
A man who answered the telephone at the travel agency who identified himself as Abidi's son declined to answer questions. He directed all inquiries to Thomas Monahan, a lawyer representing the agency. Monahan didn't return telephone calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
The complaint alleges that the travel agency's Hajj Travel Package was supposed to include round-trip airfare to Saudi Arabia, hotel accommodations and internal travel in the Middle Eastern country.
The trips cost $4,500, and some customers paid an additional $1,000 in order to stay in upgraded hotels, according to the Attorney General's office.
The customers were supposed to leave Dec. 20, 2006 and return on Jan. 4, 2007. But when they arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport and other airports around the country, they discovered there were no tickets waiting for them. (READ MORE)