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Friday March 9, 2001

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Settlement would recover some money from tour swindle

By The Associated Press

SANTA FE - A settlement negotiated by the attorney general's office is forcing an Arizona man to return money to Santa Fe and Truth or Consequences students who signed up for a senior trip to Hawaii that he never booked.

Andrew Anderson, owner of College and Student Tours, has already paid 21 students and chaperones half of what they paid, the attorney general's office said Wednesday.

The company has paid $12,500 and Anderson must pay the $10,689 balance by June 15 under the settlement terms, Assistant Attorney General Jerry Marshak said.

If Anderson does not repay the balance by then, Marshak said his office will take him to court.

The company promised last year's graduating seniors from Capital High School in Santa Fe a seven-day, six-night stay for $650 each. The group was to be joined by 11 students from the Truth or Consequences high school. Students sent in most of their money, but as the trip got closer, the company sent no airline tickets or itinerary.

Students and chaperones soon discovered the company had filed for bankruptcy.

A civil lawsuit filed by the attorney general's office accused Anderson of violating New Mexico's Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Judy Holgerson, whose son Patrick graduated from Capital last spring and planned to take the trip, said the family was pleasantly surprised when Patrick received a check for $348 last week.

"We were very pleased because we figured - and I know my son did, too - that it was money lost," Holgerson said. "He was taught to be honest and then somebody turned around and did that."

Maureen Nelson, an English teacher at Capital who planned to chaperone the trip, said Wednesday she was happy the attorney general "went out on a limb" for the students.

"It really makes the kids feel good about the system," she said. "(The attorney general's office) stayed with it, and they didn't give up."

More than 300 claims have been filed against the company across the country, Madrid's office said.