I would appreciate your timely review of my experience with a Pennsylvania based outfitter/booking agent.
On or about January 4, 2007, I entered into a contract with Mr. Jeff Martinell of Big Game Consultants, Inc. operating from Tannersville, PA. The provisions of the contract call for all claims and litigation to be handled through the courts of Monroe County, PA.
On or about January 10, 2007, I issued my check number 1079 in the amount of $7,300 to the benefit of Jeff Martinell t/a Big Game Consultants Inc. as a required deposit for a hunting trip with Tuli Hunters in Zimbabwe.
On or about June 4, 2007 (approximately one month prior to my leaving for the anticipated/contracted hunt), I received the enclosed letter from Jeff Martinell t/a Big Game Consultants Inc. canceling the hunt and informing me that Tuli Hunters were no longer financially solvent/able to function as outfitters. As a result, my deposit, allegedly forwarded to Tuli Hunters, was "no longer retrievable". In evidence of this fact, Jeff Martinell enclosed with the letter, a copy of a bank wire transfer dated March 2, 2007 in the amount of $59,685 plus bank fees of $35 payable to Mr. Wayne Dietrechsen, the principal of Tuli Hunters, Jeff Martinell also attached in his own hand, a break down of what he represents to be amounts of deposit by each hunter.
Please pay particular note to the last two entries. They reflect what he purports to be my deposit of $7,300 plus a deposit of $3,700 for a Mr. Don Toenshoff for a sub total of $11,000.
Even then, the numbers do not add up as Jeff Martinell has attempted to include the wire transfer fee within the deposit breakdown.
On or about June 19, 2007, I made contact via email with Mr. Wayne Dietrechsen of Tuli Hunters in Zimbabwe attempting to confirm his reported financial and operational status. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Wayne/Tuli Hunters had never received any form of deposit on my behalf and his firm was still operational. This prompted, in part, my enclosed letter of June 19, 2007 and subsequent email to Jeff Martinell.
On or about June 27, 2007, I received an additional email from Wayne Dietrechsen of Tuli Hunters to which he was kind enough to attach a copy of an email sent to him from Jeff Martinell dated March 27, 2007, which would compare favorably with the above mentioned bank wire transfer dated March 2, 2007. The total amounts are identical at $59,720 ($59,685 + $35 bank fees) but the breakdown is significantly different:
Instead of my deposit in the amount of $7,300 and Mr. Don Toenshoff's in the amount of $3,700 as reflected in Jeff Martinell's prior hand written assessment, the total amount of $11,000 is reflected as a deposit for only Don Toenshoff and neither my name nor deposit are mentioned.
On or about June 29, 2007, I took the liberty of calling Mr. Donald Toenshoff after locating him via a google search. Mr. Toenshoff related that he had less than a memorable safari, but he did in fact hunt with Tuli Hunters during the Spring of 2007 in Zimbabwe. Although he could not remember the exact monetary figures at the time of our phone conversation, Mr. Toenshoff distinctly remembered paying a sum in the area of $13,000 to Jeff Martinell during the latter part of February 2007 which would be consistent with the accounting as reflected in the email breakdown of March 27, 2007.
I have a letter from Jeff Martinell dated July 3, 2007 which basically relies upon a paragraph within the contract (not formed from a portion of the English language that I happen to be familiar with) to retain the deposit. As you might imagine, I have suffered significant financial loss and neither the local authorities in Pennsylvania nor any law firm I have contacted to date is willing to aid me in my attempts to regain my deposit. You may wish to contact Dr. Basso. He states that he and several of his friends are involved with a similar situation with Jeff Martinell and seeking legal remedy. Assuming you are able to confirm my finding, you may wish to advise potential clients of Jeff Martinell that they are placing their good money at risk.
Thank you for the opportunity to tell my side of the story. On 1/3/07 Mr. Formichella agreed and signed his contract to a Lion and Cape Buffalo safari in Zimbabwe with Wayne Dietrechsen dba Tuli Hunters, in the amount of $36,500.00, hunt dates 7/12/07 to 8/1/07. On 1/10/07 I received a non-refundable deposit from Mr. Formichella in the ammount of $7,300.00. In his signed contract it states that all deposits are non-refundable. Mr. Dietrechsen requested the deposit so he could go to the auction in Harare and put down the deposit for Mr. Formichella's lion. At this time I was still working with Wayne Dietrechsen as our Zimbabwe outfitter. After our first group of hunters returned and our second group was on the way, the first group informed me of how bad Wayne was getting. I found this to be true with the second group as well. At that time I dedcided, to insure my clients were in better hands, to go back with ZimAfrica who was Wayne's old employer.
I left Wayne Dietrechsen for reason that he was not getting the client's trophies out of the country because he was not paying the bank or the outfitters. Wayne Jardine and Rebecca Steyn of ZimAfrica agreed to do all hunts at the cost I had originally booked them at. I told Mr. Formichella this and a few days later he told me he had found another outfitter that he wanted to hunt with. He also told me to send him a letter stating that Tuli Hunters was no longer financially solvent so he could go back to the travel agent and get his money back. He told me they needed a letter to this effect. The travel agent is Discover Africa, the agent is Marianne Strong. The number is 888-330-4880, email firstname.lastname@example.org After trying to get his money back from the agent he found that he did not buy travel insurrence at the time of the time of purchase of his ticket. He bought his travel insurance too late.
He then called and told me he could not get his travel insurance back and he wanted his deposit back. His deposit was sent to Wayne at Tuli Hunters to secure his lion. and I sent him copies of the wire transfers as well. I did not want to see Mr. Formichella get hurt in the transaction and an agreement was made with Zim Africa to do the same hunt, at the same price and the same dates. Mr. Formichella had made his mind up he was going with another outfitter and was not comfortable going with ZimAfrica. I then called Wayne Jardine and told him of the situation and Mr. Jardine personally called Mr. Formichella to ensure him of his upcoming hunt. He still was not satisfied and to try and help him feel better we offered him the hunt for the lion and the buffalo at the same price as the original safari and if he did not get the lion and buffalo the hunt would be at no charge. I don't know what more a hunter could ask for from an outfitter that is trying to make a client feel comfortable with his operation. Other than the deposit the balance of $29,200 was due at the end of the safari if he took the lion and buffalo. No other money up front was required of him. The following is a copy of an email sent to Mr. Formichella, dated 7/10/07 from Wayne Jardine of ZimAfrica. The letter reads as follows. Hi Jeff,
I am confused and disappointed to say the least about Mike Formichella's Lion Buffalo hunt. I spoke with him directly to put across directly our story and explain the work time and trouble not to mention getting the license for the lion hunt. I explained that his remaning US $29,200.00 would get his lion/buffalo package paid in full. And if he did not get it he would not pay the fee at all. This would be a no loss opportunity for all parties. He explained that he already booked to hunt in October 2007 with a Tanzanian Operation (Miambo Safaris) but if I was able to get his deposit back from Martinell Safaris he would in turn book 2008 with us. I replied sorry no can do as 2008 is a different subject and his cat is feeding as we speak "now" in August 2007 The ball is now in his court, and do we keep feeding the cat waiting for him or is it cancelled for sure. (End of email) This is the letter sent by ZimAfrica to me days before the hunt. As a African booking agent for the past 18 years I did eveything that I could to make sure Mr. Formichellaa had a great hunt with no chance of him paying money to an operator that he did not know. ZimAfrica and Wayne Jardine went way out of the way to please Mr. Formichella and make him feel comfortable. In my opinion he made a very big mistake. After Mr. Formichella cancelled his hunt with ZimAfrica we took two lions one with Kerry Pruitt 936-679-3317 and one with Larry Kolek 505-791-9840. Both pictures are on my website www.luxuryhunts.com As to Wayne Dietrechsen; I hunted with Wayne for two years and was fooled by his lying and not doing what he said he was doing. In 2006 SCI banded him and the light started coming on. Sometimes you make a mistake by trusting people. I made one with Wayne Dietrechsen and did everything in my power to make sure all of my remainng clients had good hunts. Everything has gone smooth since I returned to book with ZimAfrica and could not thank them enough for all they have done for my clients. Mr. Formichella has mentioned in his letter that Wayne Dietrechsen said he never received the money. What do you think Wayne Dietrechsen would say when I took over 50 clients from him and stopped booking with him. I personally think Mr. Formicella made a big mistake and needs someone to blame it on. Once he found out that he could not get his money back from Discover Africa it went downhill from there and now he wants a non-refundable deposit back. If you would like to have copies of any documents I will be happy to email them to you. Regards, Jeff Martinell Big Game Consultant, Inc.
Additional comment by Formichella:
I stand by the documentation and information I sent to you. It seems obvious to me at least that my deposit was never sent.