JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you have a complaint against a Jacksonville man at the center of a nationwide travel scandal, the FBI wants to hear from you.
As the I-TEAM first uncovered, Juan Arteaga is accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of families across the country promising them everything from flights to hotels to cruises at a discounted price. However, despite paying Arteaga up front and in full as he required, they claim Arteaga didn't book their trips or return their money.
Following a series of I-TEAM investigations into Arteaga that began Jan. 23, the FBI is asking anyone with a complaint against Arteaga to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324).
As we've reported, two Florida agencies are actively investigating Arteaga: The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and Florida's Office of the Attorney General.
FDACS has now received 75 complaints against Arteaga. The Attorney General's Office has received 13 complaints.
"Well first, let me say, thank you for your attention to this matter. The teams like yours that identify this and bring it to the attention of communities are vital in making sure this behavior stops," Attorney General Ashley Moody told the I-TEAM. "In addition to your attention to this matter, we have also been paying very close attention to this matter. We’ve opened a formal investigation and we’re reviewing all of the complaints and following up to take appropriate action."
Attorney General's Office is asking anyone with a complaint against Arteaga to call the office at 1-866-9-NO SCAM (866-966-7226). You are also asked to file a complaint with FDACS, which can be done online through the agency's website.
FDACS is the state agency that regulates and oversees Florida's travel industry. While its investigation into Arteaga is ongoing, a spokesperson confirms to the I-TEAM Arteaga has been fined $1,000 for illegally operating as a travel agent.
Florida requires travel agents to be licensed; Arteaga is not and never has been. In fact, back in 2006, FDACS looked into allegations Arteaga was selling travel. But, according to records obtained by the I-TEAM, Arteaga told investigators there was a misunderstanding and he was only helping family members with their travel. He denied being a travel agent or planning to sell travel in the future.
FDACS launched its new investigation into Arteaga early last month after receiving complaints from two families that Arteaga took their money for their vacations but failed to book them and failed to pay them back. After the I-TEAM uncovered others claiming the same circumstances, the number of complaints filed jumped from the original two to 70 -- with families reporting losses to Arteaga totaling $402,821.
Washington State Resident Lisa Yenney tells the I-TEAM she paid Arteaga $4,800 for a cruise for eight family members last August, however, when they showed up for their vacation, she says they learned Arteaga had canceled their reservations. Yenney says Arteaga claimed he had made a mistake and booked the cruise for the wrong year.
"He needs to have consequences in some form or fashion," said Yenney. "I mean, I know personally some of the individuals, this was a huge financial loss for them -- a once-in-a-lifetime vacation for them to take advantage of. It was very disappointing and very upsetting for them."
The I-TEAM has tried multiple times to contact Arteaga for his side of the story since we started investigating last month, but he did not return our calls. We did find Arteaga inside the garage of a Fort Caroline home, the same home he sold in a deed in lieu of foreclosure transaction. But, he closed the garage door on us and refused to answer any of our questions.