The United States Department of Justice and the FBI have launched an investigation into Discovery Tours after the agency canceled several local field trips and filed for bankruptcy last month, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh announced Thursday.
The Mayfield Village-based company first came under heavy scrutiny back on May 1 when the Mentor Public Schools abruptly pulled the plug on an eighth grade bus trip to Washington, D.C. The district stated that it "no longer [had] faith in Discovery Tours to trust them with the most precious cargo—our students."
Several other districts with trips planned through the agency voiced similar concerns, and within a week, Discovery Tours had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and canceled dozens of future trips, prompting numerous probes from local and state officials.
Today's announcement marks the first time the justice department has spoken up about the situation, although U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown had previously called for federal officials to look into the matter. Prosecutor Walsh stated:
Thousands of local students missed out on this annual tradition. Their families paid hundreds of dollars and got nothing in return. I directed my chief investigator to find out where the money went. After discovering issues with multiple school districts throughout Ohio, as well as out-of-state schools, I determined we needed additional resources to conduct a thorough investigation. We have always had a good working relationship with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and felt they would be best equipped to continue the hard work of my investigative staff.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office received more than 700 complaints from students and faculty regarding the company, prompting AG Mike DeWine (who is also the Republican nominee for Ohio governor) to file a consumer protection lawsuit.