Local veteran out thousands from Boston-area tour group

Band of Brothers tour promises visits to WWII battlefields
Local veteran out thousands from Boston-area tour group
Fred Doebler

Fred Doebler and his wife paid $6,000 to go on a 15-day historical tour through WWII battlefields in Europe, set to leave on Thursday, Sept. 11. Now, the Air Force veteran from Mt. Horeb said he’s be “taken to the cleaners.”

Doebler placed the down payment with a Boston-area tour group, Band of Brothers Tours, in March. All the company, owned by Jake Powers, has sent to him since is an itinerary from 2013 for a group that visited the battlefields of Normandy and other spots in England, France and Holland. Powers advertises the tours he provides as “The source for your ultimate Band of Brothers experience.”

“It’s kind of stings that he would dupe a veteran,” Doebler said. “We should have had correspondence that the trip is coming up. ‘This is what you need to do. We’re going to meet. Be here. Be there.’ All the reservations have been made. And we haven’t heard anything.”

The Band of Brothers story, featured in an HBO mini-series created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, focuses on the 101st Airborne Division whose paratroopers landed behind enemy lines the night before D-Day, June 6, 1944, in an effort to surprise the Nazi troops.

“It wasn’t much of a surprise and they lost a lot of lives,” Doebler said. “(The story) was something that really grabbed me.”

Powers is facing a charge of larceny over $250 by a common scheme, and is set to be arraigned by the Worcester County District Attorney in Massachusetts on Sept. 23.

The police chief in his hometown of Grafton, just outside of Boston, confirms an investigation into Powers’ activities is continuing.

Doebler said he’s heard that numerous other tour hopefuls are also owed money. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office confirms it has received nine complaints about Band of Brothers Tours in 2014.

“(It) is a significant amount,” he said. “We’re retired. We’ve worked and we’ve tried to save. It’s not the end of the word, but it leaves a sour taste in your mouth.”

Powers told the CBS affiliate in Boston that he’s had health problems this summer which has prevented him from fulfilling his duties as the owner of his tour company. He said he’s in the process of selling his business to a competitor and will use the money raised to pay off his debts to customers like Fred Doebler.

“Had it been any other scenario but me being sick, we would have had this addressed earlier,” he said. “I owe these folks. It’s my responsibility and they’ll be taken care of.”

Doebler said he’s skeptical he’ll get his money back. However, it’s not just about the money to him.

“This was probably the one thing on my bucket list that I wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve heard the French and the Dutch really appreciate what the Americans did for them during the war. That’d be something I’d like to see and witness even though I wasn’t part of it.”