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Background for this Legal Action about Judicial Corruption — 2004

This legfal action is best understood with some background.  

Background

Alcatraz is an Atlanta, Georgia-based booking service – a seller of destination tours and activities, with agreements to purchase from over 2,000 companies across the United States as well as in Canada, Mexico, and in many countries worldwide.  Alcatraz also provides charter transportation services, bus rentals, boat rentals, limo rentals; and provides group tour and group event services.  Alcatraz is also a licensed Georgia ticket broker, though this is a tiny part of the business.  Alcatraz offers customers the convenience of finding detailed information regarding a variety of destination tours and activities and purchasing these tours and activities over the internet or over the telephone in advance.  Customers receive E-Tickets (or vouchers) that are redeemed at a designated location for the tour, tourist attraction, or activity.

Alcatraz competes with Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Priceline as well as other online travel services.

Upon information and belief, Alcatraz is the largest destination tour and activity seller in the world.  Alcatraz has sold over 10,000 different tours and activities available to it at wholesale rates from over 2,000 suppliers.  Alcatraz believes it is actually larger than travel giants Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Priceline in the destination tour and activity segment of the travel business.  Alcatraz has approximately two million customers.

Alcatraz is a rather unique business due to the variety of products sold.  In most cases, Alcatraz buys at wholesale rates, adds its profit margin, incorporates its own services, and promotes to customers at Alcatraz’s own rates.  Alcatraz pays the wholesale rate and generates a profit if it prices the product correctly and manages its overhead properly.  Alcatraz simply calculates its net expense, adds its profit margin, and then quotes a rate to the customer.  Alcatraz does not work on commission.  Alcatraz does not act as an agent for any supplier.  Alcatraz states in its Terms that its rates include a booking fee or service charge.  Alcatraz states this so customers will understand why Alcatraz’s rates are usually higher than the rates charged by Alcatraz’s suppliers.  Most of Alcatraz’s competitors make no such disclosure.  Alcatraz asks every supplier to give 25% so Alcatraz can sell at essentially the same price as the supplier.  If a supplier will not give 25%, Alcatraz has to charge more because Alcatraz loses money unless it has at least a 25% margin.

Alcatraz offers many benefits to its customers.  Alcatraz promotes worldwide offering tours and activities in almost every US state and Canadian province as well as all around the world.  Alcatraz usually offers the largest assortment of tours and activities in the markets it serves, and Alcatraz provides convenience and one-stop shopping for its customers.

Customers can contact Alcatraz or make reservations 24 hours a day, every day of the year, either online or by telephone.  Very few of Alcatraz’s suppliers are open from 8 am to 10 pm every day of the year.  Alcatraz provides simple one-stop shopping for travelers’ vacation and leisure needs, while most suppliers offer only the small number of tours and activities that they operate themselves.  Customers can plan and purchase all of their vacation needs from Alcatraz.

Alcatraz spends millions of dollars on advertising and provides travel and tour information and customer service to millions of people annually for free.  Alcatraz only gets paid when a customer decides to purchase booking services from Alcatraz.  Alcatraz offers excellent customer service with over 2,000 web sites and a large staff.  Alcatraz has approximately 1,000 toll-free numbers as well as local numbers in many markets so it does not cost anyone anything to call Alcatraz for more information.  These no-cost phone numbers are available to anyone – not just customers.  Alcatraz endeavors to provide the answers to most questions customers ask in the descriptions that Alcatraz provides for each tour and activity online.  Alcatraz also has an automated telephone system that enables customers to obtain basic information 24-hours-a-day.  Every page on every web site has two links that enable customers to email Alcatraz with their questions and needs, and toll-free telephone numbers are shown several times on each page.

Alcatraz has a large staff of well-trained Reservations Agents, and their job is to provide free information to anyone who calls or emails.  Reservations Agents are available by phone from 8 am to 10 pm every day of the year.  Customers are given toll-free numbers to reach Alcatraz’s Reservations Agents as well as local numbers and toll-free numbers to reach the tour operators.

Customers use Alcatraz web sites to learn about tours and activities that they would have never known about otherwise.  Alcatraz enables customers to make reservations before they travel.  This enables customers to have the assurance that they will have reservations to do the things they want to do.  Alcatraz enables customers to get guaranteed reservations for tours and activities that often sell out.  Customers avoid sold-out situations by using Alcatraz.

Alcatraz enables customers to pay in advance by MasterCard, VISA, Discover, American Express, wire transfer, or check, while many tour operators do not offer all of these options.  Alcatraz offers the ability for customers to obtain their tickets from any computer anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Alcatraz provides a free travel planning service for its customers.  Alcatraz enables customers to use its computer system as a vacation planner, and customers may set up free accounts to track their plans and save their basic information as a time-saver when using the system in the future.  With Alcatraz, there is no such thing as a lost ticket as Alcatraz maintains a copy of the ticket on its web servers so tickets may be accessed at any time from any computer anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

Customers receive E-Tickets (or vouchers) that are redeemed at a designated location for the tour, tourist attraction, or activity.  Like most retailers, Alcatraz charges fees for its services that are factored in along with supplier costs when Alcatraz’s retail prices are calculated and set.

Today, Alcatraz is a significant business headquartered at 8200 Roberts Drive, Suite 205, Atlanta, Georgia 30350.

Alcatraz provides extensive travel and vacation information on its network of approximately 2,400 web sites and by way of approximately 1,000 incoming toll-free telephone numbers.  Each web site offers a variety of tours and activities in a particular market as well as links to other markets that may be of interest to vacationers.

Alcatraz and Maid of the Mist Make Contact

Alcatraz contacted Maid ofn the Mist in June 2004 about a business relationship.  Carolyn Ballard Bazzo made the contact for Alcatraz, and she dealt with Sandra Carlson, Assistant Controller of Maid of the Mist.  Carlson was based in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Alcatraz had problems with Maid of the Mist from the very beginning because Sandra Carlson rarely did what she said she was going to do, and she had trouble even receiving normal emails and faxes.

Since Carlson failed to do what she pronised in 2004, Alcatraz was unable to begin selling for Maid of the Mist in 200.  Alcatraz had been, however, selling Maid of the Mist through tour operators in Niagara Falls since 2003.

Alcatraz had its largest growth in terms of nunmber of markets served and tours sold between 2004 and 2006.

Background for this Legal Action about Judicial Corruption — 2001

This legfal action is best understood with some background.  

When Alcatraz Media added a toll-free number in 2001, the phone started “ringing off the hook.”  Much to my son’s chagrin, the callers were not interested in Internet services; they wanted tickets to Alcatraz. There apparently were no companies named Alcatraz listed with directory assistance in San Francisco, because Ryan was told that when people called directory assistance for a number for “Alcatraz,” the operators would apparently say the only listing they had was a toll-free number for “Alcatraz Media.” Many would then call the toll-free number to reach my son.

My son was the only employee, and every incoming call rang to his cell phone.  After many days telling people that Alcatraz Media offered email service, web hosting, and web design, and didn’t sell Alcatraz tickets, and after many hundreds of dollars in toll-free telephone bills, my son seriously considered changing the company’s name.  The other option was to begin to sell Alcatraz tours.  This was a joke when first discussed, but after getting the toll-free telephone bill and realizing how many calls he was getting, my son thought it might make sense to try to capitalize on this accident.  So, he began selling tours to Alcatraz Penitentiary in San Francisco in 2001.

Soon after launching the Alcatraz/San Francisco website late in 2001, my sonan felt it would be wise to diversify so Alcatraz Media would not be totally dependent upon one market.  Tours and activities were added in Hollywood, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Orlando, and a few other markets in 2003.

The Company was largely a two-person operation (a computer person and my son) until the summer of 2003.  Alcatraz opened its first real office in April 2004 when the first employees were hired.  Prior to that time, the business was a virtual company with a few independent contract workers scattered around the country.

From September 2003 through March 2004, the business operated with a telephone system installed in our garage in Atlanta Georgia.  My wife and brother handled the calls.  A small office was finally opened in Norcross Georgia in April 2004.  Alcatraz moved to a larger space less than a year later.  Atlanta was chosen because family was here to help, and the cost of an office and staff in San Francisco was cost-prohibitive for a business such as this that works on a very small net profit margin.

A major expansion was undertaken in 2004 and 2005.  By the close of 2005, Alcatraz had achieved most of its North American territorial expansion goals with operations in 215 cities in all 50 states and most of the Canadian provinces.

Total revenues for the business were less than $60,000 in 2001 but grew to tens of millions of dollars by 2008.

Background for this Legal Action about Judicial Corruption — 1999

This legal action is best understood with some background.  For the Windsor family, it began in 1999.

Alcatraz Media, LLC was formed in 1999 by Rod Smith (“Rod”) and Ryan Windsor (“Ryan”).  Ryan was 23 years old.  Ryan attended college, but he did not graduate.  After he left college, he worked as a car detailer, a bartender, and doing web site set-up for a company where his Dad (Windsor) was CEO.
Alcatraz was Ryan’s idea, and he worked hard to start it and build it.  He started the business with just a few thousand dollars saved from money he earned working.  Rod provided financial assistance in the early years, and he does some work, but he has a full-time job in Ohio, and he is perhaps best described as a “silent partner” and a very good friend.  Rod owns 25%.  Ryan never came to his parents for any money to be used in financing the start-up or operation of his business.
Alcatraz began as a tiny Internet Service Provider offering web hosting, email services, web design and development.  The name “Alcatraz Media” was chosen after none of the names on Ryan’s first list of 25 potential corporate names were available in California.  A second list of 25 names was submitted, and six names were available.  Ryan’s basement apartment in Sausalito had a slight view of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz.  The Alcatraz name was memorable, came up high on alphabetical lists, and it was the best of the six available names.  So, the company was named Alcatraz Media, LLC.
The business really struggled the first two years.  Upon information and belief, total revenues were approximately $20,000 for the first two years.

C.I.A. Admits Government Lied About U.F.O. Sightings

In the darkest days of the cold war, the military lied to the American public about the true nature of many unidentified flying objects in an effort to hide its growing fleets of spy planes, a Central Intelligence Agency study says. The deceptions were made in the 1950’s and 1960’s amid a wave of U.F.O. sightings that alarmed the public and parts of official Washington.

Continue reading C.I.A. Admits Government Lied About U.F.O. Sightings

Background for this Legal Action about Judicial Corruption — 1971

This legal action is best understood with some background.  For the Glynn family’s involvement with the Maid of the Mist boat ride in Niagara Falls, it began in the early 1971.

The Glynn family became involved in 1971, and according to the book Ontario’s Niagara Parks, 100 Years by George A. Seibel, published by The National Parks Commission in 1985, James Glynn bought the “assets” of Maid of the Mist Steamboat Company in 1971.  If this was indeed an asset purchase rather than a stock purchase, his boat tour operation has also legally existed only since 1971.  There was no tender for bids.  In fact, over the history of the boat ride since the early 1800’s, the boat service was rarely (almost never) made available to bidders.

In the book, Ontario’s Niagara Parks, 100 Years by George A. Seibel, published by The National Parks Commission in 1985, it explains how one of the boats was built in Wheatley, Ontario and sailed on Lake Erie and the Niagara River where it was hauled out of the river, put on a flatbed truck, and driven through Queen Victoria Park in the middle of the day in a heavy tourist time, and lowered into the river on June 13, 1972.  The book has a photo of the boat on the flatbed as it was hauled through the park.

In 1976, Maid of the Mist IV was launched. This boat could carry 200 passengers. The Maid of the Mist IV is 72 feet (22m) long and has a beam of 24 feet (7m).

On June 6, 1983, the Maid of the Mist V was launched into service. It was built of steel construction and could carry 300 passengers. This boat became the ninth boat launched during the history of the Maid of the Mist Company.

In 1990, the Maid of the Mist VI was launched into service. The all steel double deck boat is capable of carrying 600 passengers at a time.

On Friday May 30, 1997, the first section of the new Maid of the Mist VII arrived on a flatbed trailer to the Maid of the Mist docks. The first piece of the hull measuring 31 feet long by 12 feet wide by 13.3 feet high weighed 27,730 pounds. Over the following weeks the new boat was delivered in 14 separate pieces including 8 additional pieces of the hull. When assembled and welded together the new Maid of the Mist VII was 80 feet long, weighing 145 tons and was capable of carrying 582 passengers. The Maid of the Mist VII replaced the smaller Maid of the Mist III which is being used only on a standby basis.

The new Maid of the Mist VII was officially launched into service on Friday July 11, 1997. This vessel was originally built at Cartier Construction in Belleville, Ontario.

Some Freequently Asked Questions:

When did boat service begin at Niagara Falls?  1846.  Rowboats carried passengers in earlier years.

Has boat service been offered continuously since 1846?  There have been a few periods over the years that service was not available.

Who owns Niagara Falls?  The Falls, one of the wonders of the world, are half in the United States (Niagara Falls, New York) and half in Canada (Niagara Falls, Ontario).  The border is right down the middle of the Niagara River.  The water of the Niagara River beneath the Falls where the boats operate is water that may be used jointly by Canada and the U.S. by agreement between the two countries.

What entity regulates the water between Canada and the U.S.?  The International Joint Commission deals with all water issues.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Joint_Commission.  The International Boundary Commission deals with the location of the border.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Boundary_Commission#International_Boundary_Commission

Who owns the land on either side of the Niagara River?  The property bordering the Falls is owned by two governments – Province of Ontario and State of New York.   The land in Canada is part of Niagara Parks.  The land in the United States is part of Niagara Falls State Park.

So this is government-owned land, is that correct?  Yes.

Who manages the land on either side of the Niagara River at the Falls? The Province of Ontario granted management of the Niagara Parks to The Niagara Parks Commission.  Their authority was granted by the Niagara Parks Act.  In the U.S., the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (more commonly referred to as New York State Parks) controls park lands in the state of New York.

How does a boat operator obtain the rights to operate at Niagara Falls?  The Niagara Parks Commission and the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation independently enter into agreements to make the dock area available to a third party so that boat rides can be offered at Niagara Falls.

Who are the current boat operators?  Maid of the Mist Steamboat Company, Limited is the operator in Canada.  Maid of the Mist Corporation is the operator in the United States.

Have the current operators of the boat service owned it since 1846?  No.  The current operators took over in an asset purchase in 1971.

Did the current operators name the boat rides “Maid of the Mist?”  No.  The name comes from an Indian legend.  The legend of the Maid of the Mist is that the Thunder God Hinum and the origin of the Falls of Niagara. This legend originated with the Neuter Indian Nation which occupied the Niagara District when the first French priests came to their villages to preach Christianity.

The story goes that Indian tribes were dying of an unknown cause. Each year the Indians were sending canoes filled with fruit over the Falls to appease the God Hinum and his two sons who the Indians believed lived behind the Falls. When the Indian luck did not improve, they felt that their God was not satisfied. Consequently they began sacrificing their most beautiful Indian maiden each year but still their luck did not improve.

One year, Lelawalo, the daughter of the Chief of the tribe was sacrificed to the spirit of the Falls. She was placed into a canoe filled with food and sent on her way over the mighty cataract. Legend says that this Indian maiden was caught in the arms of the God’s sons. Recalling that she had been sent to her death, the Indian maiden agreed to take one of the sons as her husband with one condition.

One of the sons relented and told her that there was a poisonous snake that lived at the bottom of the river would get hungry once a year and crawl to the where the Indians were and poison their water. The Indians would drink the poisoned water and die. After burial, the snake would return to consume their bodies.

The Indian maiden convinced the youngest son of the God to allow her to go back to the tribe one more time to tell them what the snake was doing and how to kill them with spears. One night when the snake returned, the Indian braves were waiting and speared the snake. The snake crawled back to the edge of the Falls and died with its body shaped like a horseshoe.

Legend has it that the shape of the Falls became horseshoe shaped from the body of the snake. It is said that it remains to this day, showing that the Gods are still protecting the Indians against evil spirits.

Background for this Legal Action about Judicial Corruption — 1846

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This legal action is best understood with some background.  For the Maid of the Mist boat ride in Niagara Falls, it began in the early 1800’s.

In 1807, Christian Dow speculated about the possibility of man crossing the Niagara River below the Falls as he watched wild ducks swimming back and forth across the span of the river.

The location of Indian ladders down the gorge wall at the site of the current Maid of the Mist dock are seen in early guide pamphlets. Until 1795, when Mrs. Simcoe (Governor John Graves Simcoe’s wife) visited, the ladders were the only way down the gorge embankment. In her diary, she wrote: “Mr. Pilkington was desired to place ladders to form a stairway down the bank.”

Mr. Pilkington did arrange the ladders in a stairway fashion but it was still a very daring and dangerous undertaking.

In 1818, William Forsyth built a stairway at the former ladder site to facilitate access to the row boat ferry service that Forsyth was planning to operate.

In 1818, William Forsyth along with American hotel owner, Parkhurst Whitney, began the first row boat ferry service crossing the Niagara River below the Falls. Forsyth did so without at first obtaining government permission.

Parkhurst Whitney built the first stairway down the bank of the Gorge on the American side.

When Forsyth finally asked for government permission, Thomas Clark strongly objected to Forsyth’s aggressiveness, and used his influence to lobby politicians to prevent Forsyth from obtaining the ferry service lease.

With the support of Thomas Clark, Christopher Boughner was granted the government lease to operate the ferry service. The lease was to begin on December 25th 1820 for seven year period.

William Forsyth was outraged at the government decision to grant Boughner the ferry lease. To further infuriate Forsyth, Boughner built a stairway to the ferry dock adjacent to Forsyth’s stairway.

Forsyth knew that Boughner had a number of debts. Forsyth went about buying up all of Boughner’s debts until Forsyth became Boughner’s sole creditor. Forsyth began applying pressure to have Boughner pay his debts knowing full well that Boughner could not.

Boughner finally caved into Forsyth’s pressure and gave up his rights to the ferry service to Forsyth in exchange for Forsyth canceling Boughner’s debts. After fourteen months, Boughner was out of the ferry business while William Forsyth was in business again.

Thomas Clark was very angry over how Forsyth had forced Boughner to give up his ferry service to Forsyth.

On December 21, 1821, Thomas Clark wrote a letter to the Government of Upper Canada outlining what Forsyth had done to Boughner in order to take over the ferry service. Clark recommended that the government revoke Forsyth’s ferry lease and award it to someone else.

On January 23, 1822, acting on the recommendation of the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, the ferry service lease of William Forsyth was rescinded for non-payment of the quarterly fee that had not bee paid to the government.

On April 30, 1822, the government granted the ferry service lease to George Milmine. He was allowed to operate the service for a three year term.

On April 15, 1825, Thomas Clark and Samuel Street applied for and granted a twenty-one year lease. The granting of their lease hinged on their commitment to build a carriage road down the side of the gorge to the ferry landing. Their lease expired in 1846. The road to the ferry landing cost $5,000 and was paved with cobblestone. It had a hairpin turn during the descent. This turn was until several years ago, still as it was when built by Clark and Street. Modernization has now eliminated this turn.

In 1825, the stairway on the American side was replaced with a spiral stairway built by the Porter Brothers, who owned the American Falls at the time.

Augustus and Peter Porter applied for and were granted the rights to operate the American ferry service. The Porter brothers attempted to blast a road along the gorge wall approximately 100 feet north of the American Falls. The road was never completed because rock falls and washouts forced the Porter brothers to abandon their plans.

The Porter stairway remained in operation until 1844 when the stairway was augmented by an incline railway cut into the gorge wall. The new incline railway was water powered.

The crossing time with a large rowboat took eight minutes. Fares ranged from 18-cents in summer months and 25-cents in the winter months.

During the 1840’s, more than forty rowboats were plying their trade on the lower Niagara River. Rowboats were now being employed in taking tourists upstream to the base of the American and Horseshoe Falls. Throughout the period of rowboat use, there were no records of any accidents.

On November 6, 1845, Adam Fralick was granted a ferry license. He was restricted to operating his ferry service 2.5 miles downstream of the Falls.

In 1846, the Niagara Falls Ferry Association received its charter from the State of New York to operate a steamboat ferry service.

In May 1846, an awkward looking large steamship with two smoke stacks was launched. It was christened “Maid of the Mist”. This 100 ton ferry was commanded by Captain Filkins and Captain George Synes. The ferry operated from a dock located just south of the Railway Bridge.  See http://www.niagarafrontier.com/maidmist.html

The Maid of the Mist I was launched on May 27, 1846. This boats ferry service was short lived when the first International Bridge was completed. Following completion of the bridge, most people transited the Niagara River by was of the bridge instead of the ferry. The Maid of the Mist had to take up the role as a tourist sightseeing service to remain viable.

On January 11, 1850, management of the ferry service was given to the Customs Branch of the Inspector Generals Office.

On April 29, 1853, Gilbert Mickmicken was awarded the ferry lease.

In 1861, the Maid of the Mist was sold.  In 1884, R.F. Carter and Frank Le Blond of the Village of Clifton invested $10,000 into the building of the new Maid of the Mist.

In 1861, because of a financial crisis and the coming American Civil War, the Maid of the Mist was sold at action to a Canadian firm on the condition that it be delivered to Lake Ontario. There was only one way to get there and that meant taking the boat downstream through the Great Gorge Whirlpool Rapids and the Whirlpool. This trip was undertaken by Captain Joel Robinson and two crew members on June 6, 1881.

The Maid of the Mist III was launched in June of 1885. It was 70 feet long and much more elegant.

The Maid of the Mist IV was launched in 1892 on the American side of the Niagara River.

In 1938, the great ice jam that destroyed the Honeymoon Bridge threatened to destroy the two Maids of the Mist tour boats. Both survived, only to be destroyed by fire on April 22, 1955. The fire was started when a spark from a welders torch ignited.  In less than one month after the fire, a forty foot yacht was brought down to the ferry dock along the service road on the Canadian shore. This boat was named the “Little Maid of the Mist.”

On July 28, 1955, a new Maid of the Mist boat was launched to replace those boats destroyed by fire. This boat was christened “Maid of the Mist V.”  It was built entirely of steel.

In June of 1956, the sixth boat in the Maid of the Mist fleet was launched. It was christened Maid of the Mist II.

On June 9, 1960, the Maid of the Mist II was instrumental in the rescue of seven year old Roger Woodward who had accidentally gone over the Horseshoe Falls.  In 1983, the Maid of the Mist II was sold.  Today it continues service as a Missionary ship on the Amazon River.