A Long Island travel agency sued by clients who said they were not given refunds when their spring break trips "were abruptly cancelled" has moved for that case to be dismissed and filed a $41 million defamation lawsuit against two former clients and two of their parents.
The defamation lawsuit alleges that Zachary Snitofsky, a former client and a plaintiff in the earlier lawsuit, and his father, Eric Snitofsky, both of Kings Park, "embarked on a campaign to personally and professionally ruin" the company, Xtreme Brands LLC, and its principals "by writing defamatory statements" on Facebook and making "false statements" to the media.
Stories from the web sites of Newsday and News12 published in April about the lawsuit against Xtreme Brands are cited as exhibits in the defamation lawsuit.
The defamation suit, filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola, also names Olivia Venezio of Dix Hills, a former client who is not a party in the lawsuit filed by the students, and Justin Fries of Roslyn, the father of Brandon Fries, a student who is a plaintiff.
The defamation lawsuit alleges that Venezio and Fries published "malicious and false" statements about the company on Facebook.
One exhibit attached to the lawsuit shows a post by Justin Fries saying that Xtreme Trips "should NOT be trusted" and has been "nothing but a scam!"
The lawsuit says that Xtreme Trips and its principals, Mark Tobin of Huntington, Alex Goldstein of Dix Hills and Jared Sarney of Huntington Station, "have been exposed to public contempt, hatred, ridicule and disgrace."
The lawsuit seeks $10 million each from Venezio, Fries, Zachary Snitofsky and Eric Snitofsky plus an additional $1 million from the Snitofskys.
Glen S. Edelman, an attorney at Lake Success-based Okin Edelman, general counsel for Xtreme Trips, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the defendants had "knowingly made defamatory statements with actual malice."
The initial lawsuit against the travel agency, Tobin and Goldstein, filed last month in state Supreme Court in Mineola on behalf of 16 college students, sought $250,000, including compensatory damages, interest, punitive damages and attorneys' fees.
Peter S. Thomas, a Forest Hills attorney who filed the lawsuit against Xtreme Trips, said in a telephone interview Monday that the defamation case was "a retaliatory lawsuit" that had no merit.
"I'll get that lawsuit they just filed dismissed," he said. "This lawsuit is meant to harass and annoy."
In the wake of media attention about the initial lawsuit, Thomas said he has received more than 40 phone calls from other clients who say the company took advantage of them.
But Edelman said that at least some of the college students who filed the original lawsuit had canceled their reservations with Xtreme Trips and booked reservations with a competitor that undercut its prices, offering spring break packages to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico.
The competitor "went so far as to say, we'll give you credit for your deposit" with Xtreme Trips, he said. "They all canceled en masse to travel with a competitor. Nevertheless, this handful sought to recoup their deposit from Xtreme." The students had signed agreements stating that deposits are not refundable if the customer cancels, he said.
As of Monday, Xtreme Brands, which does business as Xtreme Trips, continued to run a website promoting trips to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with the "hottest student-only beaches" and "rock star private villas."
Xtreme Trips vacated its Plainview offices several weeks ago after the lease expired, but before the lawsuits were filed, Edelman said. "They don't need a central office...Everything with Xtreme is done online."