Church group gets scammed out of $7,000   2009/10/01
By: Annie Rourke of WTNH news

Moosup (WTNH) - A church group is waiting for its money after canceling two trips with a travel agency. But now, it seems with a little research that the company may be a scam.

They were supposed to be the trips of a lifetime; spiritual journeys meant to strengthen their faith. But, instead, that faith is being tested.

Father Paul Ramen checks the mail every day. He prays he'll find a refund. He's waiting for word from a travel agency. February marks the 50-year anniversary of his ordination.

"These two trips were a celebration of my Golden Jubilee; one before and one after," said Father Ramen of Moosup.

He chose the Holy Land and a German town that has re-enacted the Passion Play since the 17th century. He advertised the tours in church bulletins across the diocese.

In turn, 15 people signed up, so he booked the trips with the Catholic Pilgrimage Center out of Atlanta; that was back in May. In June, he got an anonymous letter saying to "be aware."

"And they put all the warnings with all these different websites to check out and I did and then I got alarmed," said Father Ramen.

It seems the Catholic Pilgrimage is anything but holy. There are complaints from Florida, to California, dating years back. They have an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau and are now being investigated by Georgia's Office of Consumer Affairs.

"I should've known better but I didn't," said Father Raven.

Father Ramen had already sent their deposits -- over $7,000. He asked the company to confirm the trips but they wouldn't. He asked for a refund and it hasn't come.

News Channel 8 called the company but got an answering machine. And, an ABC affiliate in Atlanta revealed there's no business at the address listed.

Father Ramen revealed he is sick about it but wants to forgive the man running this scam. Though, so far, he doesn't appear to be repentant.

"I pray every day that his heart is softened but it's not working so far. Maybe you folks can help to soften his heart to chisel it out of him; chisel that heart of stone," said Father Ramen.

Most of those who signed up are senior citizens who took money out of their retirement to take these trips.

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