2-23-09 Department of Homeland Security Seeking Windjammer Victims CruiseMates has learned that the federal government investigation of Windjammer Cruises has not ended, it has merely moved from the Secret Service to the Department of Homeland Security, specifically the Department of Customs. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs in Mirimar, FL, is looking for people who were defrauded by Windjammer, especially in the LaMer Timeshare fiasco, but if you were defrauded in the Sail5 or Sail10 programs that is also useful information.
The customs agent I spoke to did not want me to post his phone number online, but I can forward your information to him. Please do not email me, I will not forward it. We ask that you post what you bought from Windjammer (timeshare, sail5, etc) and the amount that you lost in the transaction in our Windjammer Message Boards. Do not post your name or contact information, once you register with CruiseMates we will be able to contact you by email and we will when we are ready to forward all the information.
For those who do not know the story, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ran as many as six small sailships in their cruise line, but as their profitability waned they started selling products that did not exist. Cruisemates has done several articles on what we consider to be fraud by Windjammer.
The company sold shares in a timeshare ship they said they were building, called the LaMer project. They had purchased a research vessel to convert into a cruise ship, and sold the timeshares with a glossy brochure with floorplans and renderings (but no pictures). They collected possibly millions of dollars from people who bought various staterooms and future "weeks" for future years on this ship, but the conversion was never even started although the timeshares were sold in abundance.
Consumers were also duped in programs called Sail5 and Sail10 where cruises were pre-sold in packages of five and ten at a discount price - despite the internal knowledge that the vessels were falling apart and with no financial reserves in place to protect investors in the case of company failure. Whether or not such pre-paid package are even legal is gray area. No other cruise line has such a program.
Windjammer is now no longer in business, but they never filed bankruptcy (which would have given financial relief to many people who lost money). The Burke family, who owned and ran Windjammer, simply went underground and ignored the mountain of summons and lawsuits that followed. Because almost all of the company assets were registered in the names of foreign citizens and deeply hidden in foreign corporations it has beeen very hard to find any tanglible assets to make the customers whole again. For this reason, even lawyers have not filed class action lawsuits. The federal government is the last hope of many people who lost money to the Burkes of Windjammer.
Cruise News by CruisematesCruisemates' cruise news offers the latest cruise information updated as it happens. Unbiased and independent, CruiseMates' cruise news is for cruise enthusiasts who want to know everything about cruise vacations.