FOX 8 Defenders: BBB issues warnings after travel company concern

Essence travel scam

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Better Business Bureau warns that popular events in New Orleans are ripe for scammers. Now the BBB says it has received seven complaints just today about a possible scam through a travel agency promising to help plan a trip to this weekend's Essence music fest.

Sexica Williams and her girlfriends found out two days ago the trip they've been planning to Essence Festival for almost a year may not even happen.

"Out of pocket we're probably all out $1,500 dollars, if not more," she said.

Williams started planning and paying for the trip - the first payment made August 2017 - to the travel company OBL Travel. Williams made regular monthly installments to pay off a five-day, four-night hotel stay with concert and party passes to the Essence Festival. She thought everything was paid off until two days ago when the Omni Riverfront Hotel notified her that she still needed to pay for two of the four nights. Williams thought this trip was "officially booked" in March.

"I've been telling everyone I can't wait to take my vacation, my trip. Now I'm just, I'm really discouraged now," Williams said.

Williams' complaint isn't the only one the Better Business Bureau's received. Cynthia Albert with the BBB says they've received seven different complaints against OBL Travel today. One of the complaints totals more than $36,000.

"They're all about the same things, a very serious problem. People from out of town have been saying, Ms. Washington, Nakesia Washington, for hotel reservations and also special events for the Essence Festival," said Albert.

Nakesia Washington with OBL Travel is listed in good-standing with the secretary of state's website, but Williams says neither she nor anyone in their group can get in touch with her, and neither can we. The BBB has since launched an investigation. Albert says the FBI and the attorney general's office have been notified because possible scam situations like these can be very dangerous.

"This happens almost in every city I know. It's happened around Mardi Gras a few times where individuals say they're travel agents and set up everything, supposedly, but they don't. They take the complainants' money and they virtually have nothing," said Albert.

Williams says she's no longer planning on making the trip this weekend. Her travel funds have run out, and so has her patience.

"It's horrible someone would do this to us. She has to answer to God for this, and she has to pay for what she's done, and I hope justice will be served," said Williams.

Essence Festival coordinators say they are investigating the matter.

The FOX 8 Defenders, staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women, field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397, or you can fill out an online complaint form.

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