OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — A group of Bay Area women recently hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as part of a women’s empowerment show.

They deposited nearly $2,000 each for the trip, only to be told by the tour operator that he never received that money.

It’s a trip that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for a Good Samaritan.

“We’re about to start. We’re a little out of breath, but we’ll get there. Slowly, post. Pole“said Marissa Moreno of Hayward as she embarked on the arduous ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, repeating the Swahili word.

Africa’s tallest mountain is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world at 19,340 feet.

“That’s the challenge. You know, I’m an avid hiker. I’ve been hiking for 15 years and I love it,” said Raygina Fox of Vacaville.

Fox and the others belong to a local hiking club. The group says organizer Stan Miles began accepting monthly installments for the trip 18 months in advance.

They accuse Miles of never paying the tour operator.

“A lot of people know him and walked with him for many years, so they were very disappointed and had a great sense of betrayal,” said Patricia Eaton of Fairfield.

Fox and Eaton sue Miles in small claims court.

In his court filing, Eaton says Miles “didn’t arrange the trip, didn’t pay the tour operator, and messaged the band member that he had spent the money and didn’t have the money to provide the promised services”.

They say Miles sent them this group message explaining what happened.

“I thought I could invest the money since it just sat there and make us happy and get it back before the trip was over. A few bad investments later, and here we are,” the text read.

The message left Kashanna Harmon-Lee stunned.

“I’m upset. I’m confused. I trusted him. I thought he was a friend,” she said.

“He needs to know that he has to pay us back, that we’re not just going to give up and he can’t just go on with his life and start another hiking group,” said Alyson Edwards of Oakland.

She also filed a lawsuit in small claims court, saying the defendant used the funds he raised for the trip “for his own purposes”.

7 On Your Side contacted Miles, who did not respond to our numerous messages.

Other band members say they were also ignored.

Then came a community call for help, the brainchild of Katrece Avery.

“And having to train so hard and have their dreams dashed like that, I was like, this is wrong. So again, every little bit counts, you know,” she said.

Within days, she raised $6,000.

This was enough to defer about a third of the cost of the trip. Travelers still had to pay $1,200 more than they say they’ve already paid in Miles.

Each of the 11 women who made the trip reached the summit.

The generosity of those who helped them get there warmed their hearts.

“You find that when people are hurting or you know someone stressed out or something like that, you find that people come together,” Fox said.

Unfortunately, 7 of the 18 people who originally paid for the trip were unable to go due to the extra costs. As for Miles, the women say he sent a direct message saying he would find a way to reimburse everyone – but didn’t say when or how.

Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Do you have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE! The 7OYS Consumer Helpline is a free mediation service for consumers in the San Francisco Bay Area. We help individuals with substance-related problems; we cannot act on business-to-business cases or cases involving family law, criminal cases, landlord and tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please see our FAQs here. As part of our support process, it is necessary that we contact the company/agency you are writing about. If you do not want us to contact them, please let us know immediately, as this will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

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