Complaints have been filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office over non-refunded investments in an air service between Arizona and Guaymas/San Carlos, Sonora, that has yet to begin.
Dozens of people have repeatedly been assured that refunds were imminent but only a handful have received full or partial refunds for purchases ranging from $500 to $2,500. And, some business invested more than $10,000 on the pending flights.
Frank Jackson, owner of Paradise Air, the now-closed company that was coordinating the flights, announced the new air service last year and held information sessions to sell vouchers that he said were intended to give residents first priority on the new flights.
The start date was pushed back multiple times over the summer and fall.
Many San Carlos residents have family in the U.S. and Canada and eagerly lined up to buy travel vouchers for the flights, initially accepting the reasons given for delays.
Once the holidays neared, Jackson assured everyone that the flights were definitely going to begin and several people bought tickets for family members to fly to Phoenix or Tucson to catch the new flight south.
Norene Sullivan Sauser, a broker with Coldwell Banker Encanto Realty in San Carlos, had three family members buy tickets to Phoenix to catch the San Carlos flights.
“I even went in person to their office and had several emails where I was assured it was safe for my family to purchase their tickets to Phoenix where Paradise Air would fly from and arrive in Guaymas,” she said. “I was given all thumbs up and green lights to move forward.”
A week before the trip, Jackson announced the flights were not ready and Sullivan Sauser ended up chartering a flight to get her family to and from San Carlos for more than $7,000 — which Jackson agreed to reimburse her.
She had also bought advertising for the future inflight magazine and eight travel vouchers for a total investment of $12,000.
“We have been in constant contact with him. … It is always one excuse after another,” Sullivan Sauser said. “I can only come to the conclusion that it has been one big scam all along.”
Realtor Diane Barroll, with Remax First Choice Realty, also bought $2,500 worth of vouchers and close to $7,600 for ads in the inflight magazine.
And, during a recent visit to San Carlos, the Star learned that manufacturing companies had paid thousands of dollars toward the flight vouchers.
Last month, Jackson told the Star he had collected about $70,000 from individual investors.
He did respond to multiple requests for updates from the Star.
On March 21, Jackson forwarded the Star two letters from investors dated March 17.
Jackson said the investors were not willing to go public yet and would make a public statement down the road.
Both letters were from renewable energy companies from Canada, but the website listed on one letterhead was not valid and neither company could be located on the web in either Canada or the U.S.
The Star asked Jackson for contact information to interview the investors, but he said they were traveling and unable to speak over the telephone.
On March 24, Jackson told the Star via email that the payment from investors had been delayed.
“Even though I am confident they will fund the investment I cannot explain the delay and wait any longer for the funds,” he wrote. “I am ordering liquidation of the escrow today and will know when the funds will be available Monday morning. It will be quick and all payments will be made quickly.”
He said everyone would be reimbursed by the end of March.
On April 1, Jackson said the release of funds was taking longer than expected, but the bank said it would only be a couple of days.
“This may sound like more of the same but it is the truth,” Jackson said via email.
He did not respond to a request to interview someone at the bank who could confirm the activity and said he would be in Phoenix and unable to meet with a reporter in person in San Carlos the first week of April.
On April 13, Jackson wrote that he had given up on the investors and had found another way to reimburse people.
“I have taken the investors out of this issue as they are not involved and their interest in the San Carlos area goes far beyond air service,” he said.
He could not provide a timeline for refunds.
“The process has become more involved due to the escalation of issues of non-payment by some of those seeking refunds,” Jackson said. “Due to the involvement of various types of complaints, all of which I am addressing, the return process has become more formal. The process for formal acknowledgment and indication of satisfactory acceptance of payment has been added.”
Jackson said he is solely responsible for the money owed.
“This program is wholly on me, no other entity was or is involved,” he said. “There are a lot of untrue things being said and things being taken out of context. The truth is the funds exist and are being returned.”
Meanwhile, three people told the Star they had filed a consumer complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which by policy, cannot confirm or deny an ongoing investigation.
Jackson has been in Phoenix for several weeks and has not returned to San Carlos.