SUWANEE, Ga. (CBS46) -- We first introduced you to local friends in January who couldn’t get their money back for their “Beyond Band of Brothers” WWII themed history tour after one fell ill.
Since then, there are thousands of people also out thousands of dollars after the company declared bankruptcy and disappeared.
“It really is our trip, we have been raising our daughters, they’re now 26 and 22, and this was our one chance, after 29 years of using money to pay for their colleges and everything,” said Donna Ahlswede. “And we saved money to do this trip, and it was going to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and it was probably the first thing we were going to do just for us, so it’s disappointing.”
Bruce and Donna Ahlswede, who live in Gwinnett County, paid nearly $5,000 for their Beyond Band Of Brothers Tour, which was supposed to happen this July.
“I’m a history buff!” Bruce said with a laugh.
“When we talked to our travel agent, we said hey, can you look into this, make sure it’s a reputable company, and she did, and said it is, so we did all that, did our due diligence,” added Donna.
In March they learned the company was shutting down their local office due to the Coronavirus, and suspending all trips through end of June then…
“They just dropped off the face of the earth,” Bruce said.
Emails were bouncing back, the website went down, and phone calls went to a recorded message.
That’s when dozens of customers started contacting Mark Bielski, the Director of Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours…a competitor company.
“They’re trying to find anybody, so they Google us, or put in Band of Brothers and we’ll come up on the web, and that’s their only recourse at this point, is to call us and see if we know anything or we can help in any way,” Bielski added.
CBS46’S Melissa Stern reached out several times to the bankruptcy assignee identified in the company’s court filings, Larry Hyman, based out of Florida – he is the third party whose job is to consider the liability and assets of the company.
She never heard back.
But there are almost 2,000 people listed on the bankruptcy secured creditors list on that filing owed amounts ranging from the hundreds to nearly $25,000.
Georgia insolvency expert Bryan Bates reviewed that filing for us.
“Here we saw the liabilities listed around 12 million dollars, so the assignee would then look at the assets of the company, and what’s listed on that filing shows bank records and that shows just over $68,000 in cash, on hand, in the bank,” said Bryan Bates, a Bankruptcy Attorney and Partner at Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs.
”We don’t know where that money is, between $68,000 and 12 million dollars, that’s the job of the assignee to figure out where did all of this money go?” CBS46’s Melissa Stern asked Bates.
“Sadly, yes, we’ll have to investigate that, that’s not evident from the filing,” responded Bates.
The process will take time, and whatever money they can come up with – they’ll get a percentage of what they’re owed…*if* there is anything left.
“Which, unless the assignee is able to identify significant assets, the final distribution in this case would be very small, and perhaps nothing,” added Bates.
“That’s disappointing, what do you do?” said the Ahlswedes.
On top of that, customers started a Facebook page called “Beyond Band Of Brothers Tours Dishonest” to connect with others in the same boat.
Bates added that customers can reach out to the assignee on the filing and consider retaining a qualified Florida lawyer who deals with this, if they want to participate in the process.
UPDATE as of 6/24/2020:
Bruce and Donna Ahlswede reached out to CBS46’s Melissa Stern to let her know that USAA came through for them and credited them back the full amount of the BBOB trip to their credit card.
They said they received a letter from US Bankruptcy Court and were going to file and follow up with that, but not anymore.
They said they lucked out and suggest anyone who hasn’t yet reached out to their insurance or credit card companies to do so.