Police investigating Ask Alaska

Posted: Friday, August 08, 2003

ANCHORAGE Anchorage police are investigating the business operations of Ask Alaska Travel & Tours, a tour company that has filed for bankruptcy last week.

Police are looking at potential criminal charges against the business, which is accused of owing money to thousands of creditors around the nation and abroad, said Sgt. Walt Gilmour, head of the Anchorage Police Department's fraud unit.

Owned by Jennifer L. Christensen, Ask Alaska abruptly shut down on July 23.

Many of those claiming to be owed money are small Alaska tourism businesses, such as bed-and-breakfasts and charters.

The criminal investigation by Anchorage police coincides with a civil lawsuit the state attorney general lodged Aug. 1 that charges Christensen and her company with engaging in unfair or deceptive trade practices.

The attorney general's office and the head of the Better Business Bureau in Alaska say they have received dozens of complaints from travelers whose credit cards were charged, sometimes more than once, for services the tour company should have paid for but didn't.

Neither Christensen nor her bankruptcy attorney, William Artus, have responded to Anchorage Daily News interview requests. Artus faces an Aug. 18 deadline to file a financial disclosure statement with a bankruptcy judge outlining Christensen's debts.

The name Ask Alaska is owned by another Anchorage woman, Lisa Doggett, and was licensed to Christensen. The formal name of Christensen's company is Alaska Adventures & Accommodations Inc.

Dennis Liebert, a resident of Boulder, Colo., is still reeling from a recently concluded vacation to Alaska organized by Ask Alaska. Liebert found Christensen's company on the Internet and paid around $3,000 for an itinerary that included hotels, day cruises and a rental car, he said.

Everywhere he and his wife went, the owners of businesses whose services the couple prepaid for told them they had no record of their reservation and that they'd have to pay again, Liebert said. It got to the point that, on arriving at a given destination, the couple would simply identify themselves as Ask Alaska clients who had already paid and then add, ''You've probably never heard of us,'' Liebert said.



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