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Multiple people say they were scammed by man offering discounted travel deals

Multiple people say they were scammed by man offering discounted travel deals
Multiple people say they were scammed by man offering discounted travel deals 04:44

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A vacation always sounds good, and many people are dazzled by travel deals.

CBS 2 has been investigating a suburban man, Elliott Lawson Henderson, who offers discounts that are often too good to be true.

Pinky Jackson contacted CBS 2, asking, "I wanted to know if you are still working on this story about this s***bag." She laughed at her choice of words when reading them back, but she was seething.

One doesn't mess with Jackson's grandkids.

"He's taking people's money, selling them a dream - and then he is saying, 'Screw you and your trip,'" Jackson said.

Henderson, of south suburban Glenwood, is featured on a website, a petition, and Facebook and Instagram pages -- all dedicated to warning others about his travel deals – which multiple people call a scam.

Jackson missed the social media posts. She and her family bought plane tickets, a hotel room, and Broadway show tickets from Henderson.

Jackson flew from Chicago to New York City with no issue on a flight Henderson booked.

"Everything really went downhill when we got there," Jackson said.

The Big Apple hotel room for which the family said they sent Henderson big bucks was not paid for when they arrived. The booking confirmation he sent them was worthless.

The Jacksons needed to fork over the full price right then and there for a place to sleep.

"Really, we were speechless - and we were trying to hold it together for my 12-year-old granddaughter, whose birthday we were celebrating," said Jackson.

The birthday girl had her outfit all picked out to see the musical "Hamilton."

However, when questioned about the whereabouts of their Broadway tickets, the family said Henderson had never forwarded them as promised in a text message.

"He is a disgrace," said Jackson.

Several others have similar tales that start the same way.

"Who doesn't want to travel at a discounted rate?" said Tasha Richards.

"Me and my son both bought one of these, so we were both scammed," said Blanca Ramirez.

The Federal Trade Commission warns against wiring money to anyone promoting travel packages. Yet people coast to coast, in at least five different states, said they used Zelle, Cash App, Apple Pay, and other such means to book with Henderson.

A discount and a convincing sales pitch duped them.

"The way he sold it was that he worked for American Airlines, and he had that perk of putting people on flights," said Richards.

The hook-up supposedly gives Henderson access to yearly flight passes from several airlines. Customers pay him for "unlimited travel for the next calendar year."

Delta Airlines told CBS 2 that an email claiming to be from one of its staffers offering Henderson unlimited free travel is entirely bogus. Ramirez found out the hard way – finding herself stranded at the airport.

Another customer also got stranded at the airport and had to take a 13-hour bus ride home.

CBS 2 gave Henderson several opportunities to defend his business model. He spoke with CBS 2 on the phone but refused to go on the record during the call, during which he was asked to explain why people felt he was not coming through with what he promised.

Henderson later scheduled a Zoom interview with CBS 2 but never logged on.

He texted an audio message in which he said: "I do want to speak to you. I definitely want to give my side of the story. Monday, I'll be free."

But when Monday came around, Henderson was a no-show again.

Meanwhile, the vacation horror stories just kept coming.

"He's stealing thousands of dollars from multiple people," said Ryan Chavarria. "He screwed me over - four flights and a hotel."

Another "customer," who did not want to go on camera, was desperate to get her husband to Nigeria for his mom's funeral. But she asked for her payments to be refunded after saying Henderson had never booked the flights.

Via audio message, Henderson replied, "If you don't call me and we have a conversation like two adults, I will be putting you on a no-fly list to Africa."

It was an empty threat. But the woman also had an empty wallet.

Everyone with whom CBS 2 spoke for this story said they asked Henderson for their money back – but never got a refund.

When Jackson heard so many people had similar experiences with Henderson, she said: "He's a great a** scammer. S**t."

Again, Henderson never showed up for two scheduled interviews. He suggested he is a victim himself – of someone else running the operation – and he promised to provide refunds.

That has not happened yet.

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