Marlton couple charged in travel scam

Daryl Turner
Daryl Turner
Posted: April 25, 2013

A Burlington County couple allegedly fleeced hundreds of would-be travelers of more than $700,000 between 2007 and 2011 by promising phony vacation deals and used some of the money to buy a luxury house in Marlton, state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said Tuesday.

Daryl Turner, 41, and his wife, Robyn Bernstein, 43, recruited customers with mass postcard mailings offering complimentary cruises and airfares, but pocketed the hundreds in "fees and surcharges" each customer doled out to qualify, authorities said, announcing charges in a state grand jury indictment.

The pair also promised deep discounts and benefits to those who bought vacation packages, which generally cost between $2,200 and $6,500, while knowing the discounts were unavailable, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Turner and Bernstein ran several vacation companies, including Travel Deals L.L.C., formerly of Centre Boulevard in Marlton, and Vacation Club L.L.C., which had an address on Cooper Landing Road in Cherry Hill, as well as other companies in Parsippany and outside New Jersey.

The state Division of Consumer Affairs previously had slapped the two with civil actions after hundreds of customer complaints.

Then, in July 2011, the state Division of Criminal Justice charged them with theft and seized bank accounts and three luxury vehicles, including a 2001 Ferrari, and placed a lien on their house.

The latest charges are contained in a state grand jury indictment returned Friday.

"Like a pair of old-school con artists, Turner and Bernstein allegedly operated eight different travel companies . . . closing one company down and opening another in a new location whenever they felt the heat because consumers learned of their fraud," Chiesa said in a statement.

The couple now face charges of conspiracy and money laundering, and two counts of theft by deception.

Each is also charged with failing to file income tax returns. Turner is accused of not filing for the tax years of 2008 to 2011, Bernstein for 2011.

Each faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Turner was released on $150,000 bail after his July 2011 arrest at his Travel Deals office; Bernstein was released on recognizance, a spokesman in Chiesa's office said.

Turner's attorney, Jeffrey Zucker, said he had not seen the indictment and could not comment.

"My client all along has denied any criminal activity," Zucker said.

Bernstein's attorney, Adam Malamut, could not be reached.

No one answered the door Tuesday at the Country Lakes residence, a 4,500-square-foot, white contemporary two-story house - assessed at $751,000 - with a long driveway.

Authorities said recipients who received postcards advertising the "free" offer were told to call a toll-free number that instructed them to visit one of the travel locations for a 90-minute presentation, a high-pressure sales pitch to buy the vacation packages.

Those who attended were sent gift certificates for the promotional offers even if they had not signed on to a vacation package.

Customers, however, had to send in personal information and make advance payments - including $249 in supposed "port charges" and $50 in flight fees, taxes and surcharges - to redeem the offers.

The couple also offered deep discounts on cruises and resort condos, but the Georgia company contracted to book the travel could not offer such deals, authorities said.

In May 2009, Turner agreed to a $3 million settlement with the state Division of Consumer Affairs after it filed a civil complaint in Morris County on behalf of nearly 700 customers. He claimed he could not pay, but failed to disclose assets such as bank accounts and vehicles, authorities said.

As part of the settlement, Turner was barred from operating any travel or vacation clubs in the state for five years. But authorities discovered then that he was operating Travel Deals L.L.C., which Bernstein owned.

In May 2011, the state moved to enforce the settlement.

In June 2011, state officials filed another civil complaint, this time in Burlington County, against the couple, Travel Deals, and VIP Executives and Reservations, a Nevada-incorporated company with the same Marlton address as Travel Deals.

They were arrested a month later on criminal charges.


Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or dsimon@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @darransimon.

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