July 22, 2024

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Navigating Travel Wonders

Minnesota travel agent under fire again for canceled trips, customers stranded

The stories about Minnesota travel agent Monica Faulkner just keep piling up.

First, a group of cruise passengers say they were left stranded at the dock in March after she apparently didn’t book the trip for them, even though they had paid.

Now, there is chaos in Costa Rica after her travel group lands in the country with no place to stay, and an Aruba group of travelers just found out their Mother’s Day trip was suddenly canceled.

This past Saturday, Minnesota travel agent Monica Faulkner took a group of about 71 travelers to Costa Rica.

READ MORE: Twin Cities travelers left behind in Miami on overbooked cruise

Even though the group paid in full, the travel agent apparently hadn’t put their money down on accommodations. At some point, Faulkner had called a liaison in Costa Rica at the last minute to find property owners who would take her group to various condos, Airbnb’s and other places.

A Costa Rica property owner told FOX 9 the whole thing was so odd, but she figured the hotel must have been overbooked, so she was happy to help. But she noticed Faulkner was kind of avoiding the group she brought with her.

“She [Faulkner] was like ‘don’t say anything to these people,'” Costa Rica property owner Jennifer Little said.

Then Faulkner signed a lease with Little and handed over her passport as collateral with a promise to pay for two nights in two days, which would be on Monday. They set up a meeting spot, but Faulkner didn’t show up.

“We heard she might have been abducted, then we heard she was at the hospital, then we heard all this stuff,” Little said.

Little even went to the luxury condo she had booked for her and her family and knocked on the door. Faulkner wasn’t there, and she had the door slammed in her face, she said.

On Wednesday, the property owners were told to meet Faulkner again for payment when Little said Faulkner demanded her passport back. Little and her husband refused, but Faulkner grabbed it anyway.

Little recorded video of Monica on the phone, supposedly trying to send her the money owed.

“PayPal, Zelle, Venmo, none of that was going through,” Little said. “Then other people she owes money, $3,051 – they sent her an invoice on PayPal, and that’s when she started acting like she was going to pass out.”

Meanwhile, the travelers who were put into the last-minute accommodation were kicked out because Faulkner had not paid the property owners. Some of them flew home, while others paid extra to stay.

But it wasn’t just Costa Rica. FOX 9 was told by other travelers set to vacation in Aruba that their trip was suddenly canceled two weeks before they were set to leave.

After receiving no confirmation or room numbers from Faulkner, the travelers called the hotel they had reservations at to find out more, and found out they were never booked. The travelers allegedly paid Faulkner at least $2,500 each for a room.

“I gave him [the hotel] the name of everybody in my party, and they said no one has a room under their name. I’m like that’s crazy because we gave this lady a total of $5,600,” said Antionette Steele.

On Sunday, Faulkner called some of the Aruba traveling party saying the trip was canceled, while others just stopped getting communications altogether. Another woman who was set to go on the Aruba trip, Renee Pepper, said Faulkner’s number was going straight to voicemail, and she wasn’t responding to Facebook messages.

Little received all but $125 returned, she believes, because she had her sign a lease.

Others in Costa Rica were more trusting and are currently out well over $10,000. They tried to file court papers to stop Faulkner from leaving the country, but she reportedly left on Thursday.

No one on the Aruba trip has yet to receive any money back.