Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - They were ready for a weekend at the racetrack. Instead, more than a hundred travelers from New York, Detroit and as far away as Venezuela are spending the weekend headed back home.
"We were taking 12 of our friends, and now we have to tell all of them that all the money they spent to go is for nothing," Indiana resident Jennifer Sinclair said.
They paid in full for Oaks and Derby tickets months ago using an online dealer, called DerbyDeals.com. Staff had advised them to pick up their tickets at local hotels in Louisville on Thursday night. That's when the devastation hit.
"We waited three hours for tickets that were promised to us. Some people in there had paid last June, December, thousands and thousands of dollars. We got to the hotel and the airfare, and we get here, and there's no tickets," said a New York resident.
Customers said a Derby Deals employee arrived on scene with tickets, only to leave with them a short time later. Some travelers made the trip over to New Albany where the company is headquartered but found no one inside.
"We want to know where DerbyDeals.com is. Where are your staff?" Monique Young, a Detroit resident, said.
Attempts to contact Derby Deals ourselves also failed.
"We paid over $20,000. It's the biggest rip-off. So, we're not going to be able to get into the Oaks, to the Derby. This is the biggest rip-off I've ever seen in my life," Carlos Quintana, from Venezuela said.
Within hours, Louisville Metro police arrived on scene.
"We called 911, thinking there was going to be a riot. And the cops that did show up, they let the ring leader leave with the tickets in the tub," said another traveler.
We checked in with the Better Business Bureau to see what it knew about Derby Deals. We're told the company has an "A" rating, but is not accredited by the BBB. It's reportedly received only nine complaints in the last three years.
"Something's not right. We don't want a refund, we want to go to the Derby," Young said.
We followed up with a few of the travelers Friday morning. Some were able to find Derby tickets elsewhere. Others are headed home, with no refund in sight.