Action 9 investigates Altamonte travel certificate company



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A Lake County man claims he lost hundreds of dollars at a charity auction over a cruise he never got to take.

Action 9's Todd Ulrich stepped in and helped Bob Huthmacher get his money back.

Huthmacher blames the loss of his money on Charity Getaway, a local company run by a man who has a long history of complaints involving travel certificates.

At a YMCA fundraiser in Tavares, Huthmacher bid on a five-night Royal Caribbean cruise and won it for $600.

According to Huthmacher, it was a night he lived to regret.

"Be careful who you deal with," he said. "Check out their reputation before they walk in the front door."

The cruise came from Charity Getaway in Altamonte Springs. And Huthmacher didn't win cruise tickets, rather, a certificate to travel at a future date.

Huthmacher claims he had trouble booking the cruise and his wife had health problems, so he decided to sell the cruise certificate to someone else.

Huthmacher said he found a buyer, and Charity Getaway collected $600 from the new customer, but Huthmacher said the company never refunded the money.

"It's been three months since I was supposed to get a check. I want my money back," Huthmacher said.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Greg Peaden is the principal operator at Charity Getaway. Action 9 learned Peaden also ran two other certificate travel companies that had F ratings, and there were nearly 270 complaints, many from consumers who had trouble booking cruises.

"Even if you get to use the vacation, because there are so many blackout dates, there are only a handful of days that you can travel to begin with," said Judy Pepper of the BBB.

Peaden told Action 9 by phone that his other businesses made mistakes before closing in 2009. He said Charity Getaway has successfully booked customers for two years.

Peaden blamed Huthmacher for not providing the information needed to send his check, but he said he would now get a refund.

This week, Huthmacher got a refund check, minus a $100 processing fee.

Charity Getaway has only one BBB complaint, and that was Huthmacher's. It does not have a bureau grade.