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Cancelled WWII trip leaves students upset

Students+were+reimbursed+and+passports+were+given+back.
Students were reimbursed and passports were given back.

Students were reimbursed and passports were given back.

Students were reimbursed and passports were given back.

Kaitlyn moore

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Dr. Eric Pullin from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin were looking forward to taking 15 students and two Ashland community members on a WWII tour on May 29.

Moser makes the trip every four years, and the 2014 WWII trip was a great success, so nobody anticipated any problems.

A week before departure to Russia, the group’s travel agent, Nick Reese, suddenly stopped responding to emails. Then the money, passports, and Visas all vanished.

It was completely unexpected, considering the university had worked with Reese on two previous trips and everything went well, including the WWII trip in 2014.

“Four years ago we contracted with a U.S. based agency called World Cultural Agencies, and they contracted with Nick Reese in London, who owns Equinox Tours,” Rebecca Parillo, director of study abroad, said. “Nick went up to John and Eric and said if you want to cut out the middle-man, you can contract directly with me and Equinox.”

So they did. The faculty members had a preference for Reese based on previous experiences with him, the pricing was fantastic at $4,000 and the proposal was well put together.

Parillo sent Reese the final balance in February and that is when odd things started happening. Suddenly there was an issue with the Visas, the issue being they were much more expensive than the group was originally told.

“John and Eric emailed Nick and said either you need to come here and fix it, or we take out Russia and Belarus or cancel the trip and get a full refund. Nick said he would come to both campuses and take their passport photos, help students fill out the Visas and then process them,” Parillo said.

In April, Reese came to campus and did everything he said he would. Then things started to fall apart.

Reese stopped answering emails, and the Belarusian Embassy told the university that Reese went there to drop off the passports but there was a mistake. He was told to come back the next day and he never showed up.

“I don’t know if things fell apart so he just ran…I don’t know what happened. AU and Carthage got in touch with Nick and confronted him about the passports and visas, and he said he needed to cancel but would give is a full refund if we gave him two weeks to secure that,” Parillo said.

That was in the middle of June. May 21, eight days before they were supposed to depart for Russia, Moser emailed the students that the group was still waiting on the arrival of the passports.

It became clear the trip was going to be cancelled at that point. Students were advised to cancel their passports. Moser and Parillo met with the provost and Steve Hannan to figure out what to do next, and it did not take long for them to decide to reimburse the students for the tour, their Visas and their new passports.

“I am really grateful to AU because there was no hesitation in doing the right thing by the students. Moser also called every single participant personally to tell them the trip was cancelled and what was happening next,” Parillo said.

Renee Borcas, one of the students who was supposed to go on the trip, is also very thankful to the university for being very clear and communicating about what was going on.

“It was disappointing enough to get the trip cancelled but to have to worry about losing that large sum of money would have been much more stressful. I am thankful to the university for making the best out of a bad situation,” she said.

The students did get their passports back, but it was after they had already cancelled them.

Although the students were reimbursed, the school was not. The university has filed police reports with the APD and Carthage College has called Interpol and Scotland Yard, trying to put a warrant out for Reese’s arrest if he ever steps foot in the U.S. again.

Parillo and Moser are working with the university’s insurance pursuing cyber theft and general theft, since the money was wired. Parillo has also been working all summer putting processes in place to make sure this kind of situation never happens again.

“We are going to only use pre-approved providers in the future, and they will need to fill out a 25 question application, be a large and established agency, and have a large amount of insurance,” Parillo said.

She is currently looking at Nationwide for a $46 policy that would be put into the program price, and it can be triggered by anything from a student breaking their leg three days before the trip to a parent losing a job. It covers a lot but only costs a little.

 

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