portrait of a filipino as a scammer

September 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm 25 comments



his gentle manner and unassuming smile can easily disarm anyone. he’s said to be a cancer survivor. indeed, his countenance projects one who has gone through a lot and borne his sufferings with patience. but looks can be deceiving. he proves to be a fox in sheep’s clothing preying on unsuspecting customers.

i’m referring to francis gonzales aka frank gonzales who operates the american academy of family medicine in costa mesa, california. he caters mostly to health care professionals by offering travel tours to europe and the middle east, and continuing education conferences in the philippines. the tours appeal especially to filipinos because they touch on their religious faith. depending on the tour selected, it includes visits to any of the famous holy sites, such as lourdes, fatima, medjugorje, rome, israel, etc. in addition, he provides a ‘buy one, get one free’ or a ‘buy one, get one 50% off’ special to those who commit well in advance of the scheduled tour.

several of my friends from los angeles booked a 12-day tour this year from gonzales that highlights the passion play at oberramergau, germany. the fact that this religious event occurs only once every 10 years helped seal the deal for them.

they were scheduled to leave in may, but it was canceled by gonzales giving the volcanic eruption in iceland as excuse. he had it rescheduled in september. as the day of their departure approached, however, he seemed to have vanished into thin air. attempts to contact him for their airline tickets and hotel accommodations went for naught. neither their phone calls nor e-mails to him were answered. finally, a day after their scheduled departure, he picked up the phone. he said the trip had to be postponed for a few days due to a logistical problem. he then followed the phone conversation with an e-mail asking an additional $600 for each person to cover increased costs. as they were still mulling over the wisdom of this request, he sent them another e-mail saying that the trip had been canceled. he promised to return all the money paid plus a $500 voucher good for any future tour arranged with his company.

searching the internet revealed that my friends have become victims of a travel scam and they aren’t alone. it seems that gonzales has been in the business of defrauding people as far back as 2008 as the following website will attest:

http://local.yahoo.com/info-21016048-gonzales-francis-md-american-academyfamily-mdcn-costa-mesa

his modus operandi are offering a comparable tour cheaper than competitors, asking for full payment well in advance, postponing and rescheduling the tour multiple times at the last minute, and making false promises of issuing full refund to those who have requested it. from what i gather, he’s a master manipulator. he knows how to play with your emotions to the hilt. he’ll allegedly withold issuing you the refund check until you realize it’s an exercise in futility. by then, you’ve become so emotionally-drained and wasted that you’d be willing to sign up for a future tour instead of getting your money back repeating the cycle of deceit all over again.

it shouldn’t end up like this. two of my friends traveled with him on separate occasions in 2007 and had a wonderful time. he was a great companion and guide and even sang to the group. that was the reason why they signed up again this year only to discover what used to be a reputable tour operation had turned into a fraud. what could have made the difference between then and now? it must have been greed and the lure of easy money on the part of gonzales.

it hurts when you’re scammed and your trust betrayed. it hurts all the more if it’s done by a kababayan (fellow filipino) like francis gonzales who proudly affixes an “md” after his name, although he’s not really a physician according to a disgruntled customer. whether it’s true or not, is beside the point. at the end of the day, it could well stand for a “masquerading devil.”

if you have been scammed by this person, please report him to the california attorney general’s office immediately. an online complaint form is available at their website for your convenience.

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25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alice Odena  |  September 20, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks for posting and helping exposed Scumbag Gonzales’ evil deeds.

    Thank you also for reading my blog entries and the suggestion. It appears you’re a professional writer. I’m an IT professional, but new to blogging.

    Reply
    • 2. plaridel  |  September 21, 2010 at 9:26 am

      alice:

      i’m just an ordinary blogger with no claim to fame.

      Reply
  • 3. Peping  |  September 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Dapat sa taong ito ay ibitin ng patiwarik. Kapwa Pilipino ay niloloko niya.

    Reply
    • 4. plaridel  |  September 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm

      peping:

      funny. while we’re at it, why don’t we dress him like a chicken, too? 🙂

      Reply
  • 5. sub  |  September 22, 2010 at 1:04 am

    i twitted this. makatulong man lang kahit papano. dami mo na nabubulgar na scam dito ahh! haha online police

    Reply
    • 6. plaridel  |  September 22, 2010 at 9:05 am

      sub:

      thanks… this guy deserves to be in jail.

      Reply
  • 7. Shumai  |  September 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    It appears that this guy is selling bogus tours. He should have a day in court. The victims should file a class action law suit to recover their money.

    Reply
    • 8. plaridel  |  September 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm

      shumai:

      i agree. the victims should be proactive and do it fast. time is on the side of the scammer. the longer they wait to sue, the better his chances of getting off scott-free.

      Reply
    • 9. sub  |  September 22, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      i thought the US government is discouraging class action lawsuits? lawyers rake more money than the actual victims themselves because of bargaining!

      Reply
      • 10. plaridel  |  September 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm

        sub:

        it’s possible, but i have no say on the matter. i’m not familiar on how the system works. if one of our readers can enlighten us, that would be great.

        Reply
        • 11. sub  |  September 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm

          yeah i hope so. im interested. should i take up law, ill practice in the US and focus on class action lawsuits its moolah in no time! 😆

          ok im just kidding. im not that heartless 😛

          Reply
          • 12. plaridel  |  September 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

            sub:

            sounds like a plan to me. 🙂

            Reply
  • 13. Biktima ng kapwa pinoy  |  September 22, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    This was e-mailed on July 2009 to my family, relatives, friends and co-worker to alert them of this scam.

    This email is generated to prevent the General Public about the Faudulent Business Practices of:

    The American Academy of Family Medicine
    1525 Mesa Verde East Suite 201
    Costa Mesa, CA 92626
    Tel: (714) 432-7000
    Fax: (714) 432-8721

    Contact: Frank Gonzales – Principal and Chief Executive Officer
    Business Start Date: 1/1/1976
    Company ID: 29002320

    As per Better Business Reliability Report this company has a Company Rating of F

    BBB opinion of what this rating means:

    We strongly question the company’s reliability for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints, their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s industry is known for its fraudulent business practices.

    Bureau’s Comments and Analysis of Company’s Business:

    This company advertises educational and religious tours to Europe or the Holy Land . The company asks that all fees for arrangements be paid in advance.

    We routinely advise when planning a vacation or making plans for travel, take time to check the reputation of the company you choose before making a buying decision. In California , a travel company or agent who sells, or arranges air or sea transportation must register as a seller of travel with the California Attorney Generals office, and post bond with the state to protect consumers from fraudulent promotions. This registration requirements applies to all sellers of travel who have their place of business in California, and sell to out of state, or California residents, or, are located outside California but solicit California residents.

    California law requires all sellers of travel to register with the Attorney General’s Office and to display the registration number on all advertising. While not assuring that a company is reputable, a valid registration signals that the seller of travel has at least followed the law to be registered. As of our last verification, on December 31, 2008, this company was not registered as required for their industry. To verify registration, you can contact the Registrar by writing to, the Seller of Travel Registration Unit at 300 South Spring Street , Los Angeles , CA 90013 ; fax your query to (213) 897-8846, or call them at (213) 897-8065

    Government Actions:

    We know of no government action taken against this company.

    There are 21 numbers of total complaints for the last 36 months per Better Business Bureau

    May 2009, The American Academy of Family Medicine was reported to Channel 7 News, “7 On Your Side” a Bay Area Broadcasting Company. The issue reported was about the fraudulent business practices and being unprofessional. A client cancelled the tour to Holy Land due to economic hardship crisis. The American Academy of Family Medicine declined to refund the whole amount of the trip, instead made a letter of agreement to pay client on a monthly basis. What happened to the money paid in full? This company is operating around the Bay Area with a group of Filipino doctor’s and nurses. Last time they held a meeting in St. Anne’s Catholic Parish in Union City , California , USA . Be aware folks! This is a SCAM

    Please forward this email to your friends, relatives and love ones.
    Always cc: Medicclub@aol.com to let them know about their fraudulent business practices base on Better Business Bureau report.

    Reply
    • 14. plaridel  |  September 22, 2010 at 8:14 pm

      biktima ng kapwa pinoy:

      this only confirms that filing a complaint isn’t enough. victims should band together and file a class action lawsuit against this individual. it provides the best chance of getting their money back and putting him out of business. being sentenced to a much-needed vacation in jail would be a plus, too.

      Reply
  • 15. sarah  |  September 23, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    yikes. this is effed up! ipa-imbestigador na yan ke mike enriquez!

    Reply
  • 17. iRobot  |  September 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

    In the Balitang America article, Filipino Nurses Accuse Travel Agency of Scam, dated 9/21/2010, Mr. Gonzales denied any wrongdoing. He was quoted as saying that “the payments that they received could not cover all the costs” giving him “no choice but to postpone the trip and ask for additional fees.”

    If it’s true, then why didn’t Mr. Gonzales notify all concerned at least one week before the trip? If there was indeed no intent to defraud, then why did Mr. Gonzales, who boasts 30 years of experience in the business, keep his customers guessing as to the status of their trip? Why did Mr. Gonzales not answer the phone nor return messages left on the answering machine up to the scheduled departure date? And then, when they were able to contact him finally, why did Mr. Gonzales say the tour had been canceled just like that? He did promise that all money paid would be refunded. But when? There are customers still waiting for their refund for more than a year now.

    Reply
    • 18. plaridel  |  September 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      irobot:

      the more i dig into this individual’s background, the more i’m convinced that he’s a crook. he has swindled people out of their hard-earned money. if the long arm of the law can’t catch him, there’s still karma that he’ll have to contend with. the possibilities are endless. one of them is that his cancer may come back to haunt him leading to an agonizing death.

      Reply
  • 19. weighty  |  September 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    gonna send this to my mom

    Reply
  • 20. Villa  |  September 27, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Yes, Mr. Gonzales, if you’re reading this, when are you sending the refund check that you promised? We are waiting.

    Reply
    • 21. plaridel  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

      villa:

      it looks like that there’s already a class action lawsuit in the works. those who have been swindled by gonzales should contact:

      Kathleen E. Alparce
      Attorney
      CTSC Law Office
      2601 Main St., Suite 800
      Irvine, Ca. 92614
      Cell Phone: (909) 636-1805
      e-mail: kalparce@ctsclaw.com

      Reply
  • 22. Raquel  |  November 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Everyone got it right. Francis E Gonzalez is a scammer, am awaiting for his day in court. He swndled several of us – shame on him. Am still waiting for my refund from 2008. What a scumbag.

    Reply
    • 23. plaridel  |  November 12, 2010 at 5:58 pm

      raquel:

      if you charged your trip to a credit card, you should contact the issuer and file a complaint. my friends did and it looks like they’re going to get their money back. just a thought.

      Reply
  • 24. mikeenri  |  December 23, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    This is a FAKE. Just a BLUFF site just to Earn Money by abusing a person. Too Bad.

    Reply
    • 25. plaridel  |  December 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm

      mikeenri:

      you better believe it, his website is fake. the last time i heard there’s already an outstanding class action lawsuit filed on behalf of mr. gonzales’s victims in los angeles.

      Reply

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