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updated 10:11 AM CST, Dec 22, 2014

  • Published in Africa

NORTHPORT, N.Y. (WABC) -- It was a once in a lifetime trip to the Dark Continent that for one Long Island couple got even darker.

But after getting stranded on a dusty patch four hours outside Nairobi, they called long distance for help from 7 On Your Side.

It was sold as exotic African safari, but this was the only wildlife these tourists found.

"From a trip of a lifetime, this turned out to be the most frightening experience I could ever imagine," said Fran Zeiler, 2Afrika customer.

An African safari topped Fran and Joel Zeiler's bucket list, so they saved the $8,296 and paid 2Afrika for a grand tour.

But just two days into it, there was trouble.

"The driver said we can't go on with the trip," Fran Zeiler said.

The African tour guide said he was never paid by 2Afrika. The trip was over.

And 15 tourists got dumped on a dusty Kenyan road.

"So what was your reaction when this happened?" 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda asked.

"Shock," Joel Zeiler said.

They were stranded in a town on the state department watch list and were warned to get out of there by the American Embassy.

"I was terrified. Terrified," Fran Zeiler said.

Frantic calls to 2Afrika never resulted in the money coming.

The Zeiler's and their group scrambled to salvage their safari, paying thousands extra to get on another tour and get home safely.

"I can't believe this man is still out there. I don't know how he sleeps at night," Fran Zeiler said.

She's talking about Kenneth Hieber, the owner of 2Afrika, who sells tours twice a week on his online travel program.

More than a year ago, Hieber promised the troubled tourists a full refund.

"I have no respect for him at all," Joel Zeiler said.

But, no one got a refund. So 7 On Your Side went to his Jersey City apartment.

He never answered, but by phone he told 7 On Your Side he's broke and can't pay anyone back. Yet, Kenneth Heiber boasts about his brand new kitchen with granite counter tops on Facebook.

"I have total disgust," Fran Zeiler said.

We turned disgust to dinero.

Luckily, Fran and Joel paid for the tour with a credit card.

And after 7 On Your Side appealed the charges, Chase came through with more than $7,000.

To top it off, after the travel insurance company twice denied their claim, our intervention succeeded in getting coverage for $1,735.

The Zeiler's got even more money for a total of $8,700 back.

"Unless you have someone like 7 On Your Side behind you, you're not getting anything done," Joel Zeiler said.

Web produced by Jennifer Matarese, Eyewitness News

 

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