TUCSON – “I think every parent, every student who was defrauded, they’ve got to be elated today, knowing that now there is an actual concrete judgment against him,” Mike Ulrich told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. He’s talking about George Barragan, the owner of Senior Grad Trips.
Ulrich is one of the parents of Cienega High School grads who paid Barragan’s company $40,000, $500 each, for a trip to Disneyland in 2017. The company’s busses failed to show up, and the 80 grads went to Disney only after community donors stepped up.
The Arizona Attorney General, Mark Byrnovich, has announced a $451,000 default judgment against Barragan and his parent company, EB Worldwide. The A.G. had filed a Consumer Fraud suit against Barragan in July and court records show Barragan failed to answer it. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Steven Lynch has awarded $400,000 in civil penalties; $40,000 in restitution to victims and approximately $11,000 in attorneys’ fees.
Ulich said, “We recognize we’re probably not going to get the money back. We appreciate the judgment’s been made but, this has gone well beyond getting our money back. This is about justice.”
If Barragan doesn’t pay the judgment, it clears the way for authorities to seize his assets and garnish his wages. It also bans EB Worldwide and Barragan from doing travel business in Arizona.
“It’s about being persistent and holding people accountable.” That’s the message that Cienega High School Principal Neemer Hassey says the judgment sends to his students. Hassey praised the attorney general and the victims, who continually spoke with investigators and kept the pressure on.
Hassey said, ” For all the victims that he failed to provide the service, they should all get their money back and he should get jail time.”
Barragan has problems in at least two other states where he allegedly took money for trips he did not provide. He’s under criminal investigation in his home state of Texas by the FBI and has been sued by the attorney general there. That case is pending. Barragan is also under investigation by the California A.G. for stranding 30 high school grads in June at Los Angeles International Airport. They paid $1500 each for a trip to Cancun. They found out when they arrived at the airport that Barragan had not paid the airline or hotel.
When we called Barragan after the Cienega trip failure he blamed it on a colleague and said he’d return the $400,000 in 24 hours. That was 18 months ago. We called him again today after the default judgment was announced. No one answered the phone.
Mike Ulrich said, “We really just want to see this guy out of business and ultimately we’d like to see him in prison.”
So the noose is tightening on George Barragan. While it may be unlikely that his victims will be paid back, the case to watch now is the FBI’s criminal investigation in Texas. The outcome there could land Barragan behind bars.
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