Ask, and Ye Shall Receive a Check for Fraud
Last month, Unfair Park brought you the latest "Yokel Fleeced in Dallas" tale. In this installment, the victim was Temple Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas. As an Arkansas paper explains, Dallas travel agency Pride Travel, Inc. apparently stole $30,000 the church sent in February to pay for a missionary trip to Cambodia. When Singapore Airlines told the church in May that the confirmation number the agency provided was invalid, youth pastor Shane Peters drove to Dallas but found only an empty office. Turns out, the agency had filed for bankruptcy last October.
Fortunately, that's not the end of the story: Peters and senior pastor Don Elmore feared their trip was done for, but after the first reports of their plight, donations began pouring in from around the country, to the tune of $50,000 and counting. On Sunday, the 25-strong contingent from Temple Baptist left on schedule for their trip to Cambodia, using tickets the church purchased directly from the airline and bearing extra food aid bought with the donated cash.
The church has its happy ending, but what of the alleged con artist? Pride Travel's Web site is still up and still displaying a Better Business Bureau symbol, though it isn't listed in the Dallas-area membership directory. The Dallas phone numbers on the site no longer work, however, since owners Greg Corley and his mom Charlotte have pulled up stakes and moved the bankrupt agency to Phoenix, according to their lawyer. Their e-mail address, however, still works, and in response to our inquiry, the agency sent this message last week: "A refund posted to the church's credit card last night in the amount of 3520.00 as this was the amount that was paid on with [sic] their credit card. A cashier's check was mailed on Monday for the balance." Sounds like the Corleys have atoned for their sins—except that Peters says the refund was from the Visa fraud protection department, not Corley. And the check? As of today, seems to be still in the mail. Peters says Dallas police have told him Temple Baptist isn't the only victim.
In an ironic twist, Pride Travel won the 2006 Reader's Choice award from the Dallas Lambda Pages, a gay information directory, even though Corley filed for bankruptcy in October 2005. The good church folks only recently found out exactly what kind of pride the agency specialized in, despite the fact that the company's logo is a globe superimposed on an inverted lavender triangle. Had the church deciphered the symbolism, Pride Travel may not have been its first choice, but it wouldn't have necessarily ruled out the agency, according to Peters. "We're not going to hold that against any person or business," he says. Seems it's just the fraud they don't take kindly to. --Rick Kennedy