Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today charged a Dallas-area travel firm and three of its principals with violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).

According to a lawsuit filed by the state, Royal Palms Travel Inc. and All Inclusive Excursions falsely promised steep discounts as part of travel club memberships they offered through a "shell" company, Sealand Travel Club. The memberships actually had little or no value. In response to the state's enforcement action, a Dallas County District Court today issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants that prevents them from continuing to violate the law. A temporary injunction hearing is set for 2 p.m., March 30.

Among the defendants charged with legal violations were company principals Adrian D. Miller, William H. Bailey and Christy Spensberger. Other named defendants were Travel Services Inc., Funseekers Vacations Inc. and Royal Palms Travel. According to state investigators, Royal Palms Travel and a related entity, All Inclusive Excursions, unlawfully misled potential customers and relied upon improper high-pressure sales tactics to sell worthless travel club memberships.

The defendants' scheme in this case closely resembles other unlawful travel scams that the Office of the Attorney General has shut down in recent years. The state's court documents show that the defendants lured customers to sales presentations by offering free trips, airline tickets – even gasoline. However, seminar attendees were informed that their free trips and tickets were contingent upon paying a deposit and submitting receipts for vouchers or rebates. Customers also discovered that the "free" trips were subject to restrictions that rendered them effectively worthless.

The defendants urged other prospective customers to join Sealand Travel Club, which claimed to provide significant discounts and the lowest prices for travel. The state's enforcement action reveals those claims were false and thus unlawful, and that Sealand is an unincorporated shell company existing in name only. The defendants routed Sealand memberships they sold customers to a mail drop at a UPS office in Kansas City, Mo. In turn, Travel Services Inc., a Delaware corporation also known as Funseekers Vacations Inc., received the forwarded Sealand memberships at an office in Litchfield, Ill.

Sealand charged its members from $2,000 to $8,000, but customers received little or nothing of value, as they were unable to book travel at lower prices than they could find without the Sealand membership. Thus, prices under the "Sealand" banner were no more discounted than ordinary prices quoted on the Internet.

To prevent further unlawful conduct and prevent additional Texans from being harmed, the attorney general is seeking a temporary injunction that will extend the temporary restraining order the court granted today. The Office of the Attorney General is also seeking civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each instance the defendant violated the DTPA.

Because Travel Services Inc. unlawfully failed to obtain a certificate of authority for conducting business from the Texas Secretary of State, the attorney general also charged the defendant with violating the Business Organization Code – a violation that renders the defendant liable for franchise taxes from 2008 through 2010.

Texans who believe they have been deceived by similar fraudulent business practices are encouraged to call the Office of the Attorney General's toll-free complaint line or file a complaint online.