Graduating Seniors In Four States Lose Out On Trips

Dozens of graduating seniors in four states will go without a senior trip this year because of the company with which they booked the trip has shut down and filed for bankruptcy.

Students in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana paid from $700 to $1,100 for the trips to the beaches of Cancun.

Deann Mosley, director of consumer affairs for the Mississippi attorney general's office, said the attorney general's office first received calls about the situation on Monday, after parents were unable to contact the company because the office had been cleaned out and phone numbers had been disconnected or changed.

"Our investigation started this week, so it is premature to say what actions we are going to take,'' Mosley said. "But we are investigating it, and we certainly want to tell anyone who feels they were a part of this to contact our office.''

Madison-based Hot Spots Student Travel LLC filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday, according to court documents.

Charles Julian of Brandon is the debtor in the papers, which show the company owes $339,463 and has less than $50,000 in assets. The company owes money to about 250 people and businesses from Mississippi to Mexico, according to the court papers.

The company notified the students Saturday by letter that the trip was being canceled and promised further correspondence, said Marilyn Roberts, whose daughter Allison planned to go on the trip.

Neither Julian nor his attorney, Walter Newman, could be reached for comment.

The company had been in good standing with the Better Business Bureau since it was established in 1998, said Bill Moak, president of the state bureau.

The bureau had received seven complaints by Wednesday, but had received none prior to Monday. The complaints were forwarded to the attorney general's office, Moak said.

People who want to try to recoup money from Hot Spots should file a proof of claim form with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jackson, Mosley said. A judge will decide if it is possible to receive money from the company.

People should also call the attorney general's office at 1-800-281-4418 to file a form that will enable them to be included in any action the office might take, Mosley said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)