ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage tourism owner who closed down over the summer leaving vacationers in the lurch has denied in court papers charges of fraud and unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Jennifer Christensen, president of Ask Alaska Travel & Tours, faces two consumer protection lawsuits by the attorney general's office and several small-claims cases, and is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Anchorage Police Department.
Her attorney, William D. Artus, filed court papers on her behalf earlier this month denying the state charges. Artus asked that Christensen be dismissed from the state lawsuits, which name her and her company.
Christensen began business as a bed-and-breakfast referral service in 1997 but later expanded to be a custom tour company.
Facing mounting debt, Christensen closed the business in July amid the summer tourism season and filed for bankruptcy a month later.
Businesses all over Alaska were demanding payment and visitors were showing up at venues only to find that reservations they thought they had previously paid for were not honored.
Her business is alleged to owe tourists and other businesses at least $800,000.
One lawsuit by the attorney general's office is seeking to recoup money for hundreds of tourists affected when the business closed. The second, which names Christensen as a defendant, focuses on businesses owed money.
Artus asked the judge not to force Christensen to sign sworn affidavits every time she submits information to the attorney general.
Because Christensen is the subject of a criminal investigation, she has the right to refuse sworn testimony based on her Fifth Amendment rights, Artus wrote.
"Jennifer Christensen has been extremely forthcoming and cooperative with the state. She has voluntarily turned over to the state all records and documents in her possession, custody and control that have been requested," Artus wrote.
Computers and records were seized recently from Christensen's home under a search warrant, he noted.
Artus also said some of the fraudulent and unfair acts the attorney general accuses Christensen of "are the acts of employees or agents who were acting without the knowledge or consent" of his client.