CruCon Cruises grows

M’boro company joins Travel Leaders Group

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MOULTONBOROUGH — CruCon Cruise Outlet has entered an agreement with the Travel Leaders Group, which will make a significant investment and take an equity stake in the company. Neither the amount of investment nor the terms of the agreement were disclosed.

Founded by Sandy Cleary, CruCon grew from an internet travel agency begun in her mother's basement in 1995, established its headquarters in Moultonborough in 2004 and now sells cruises at discounted prices to some 100,000 guests a year and books annual sales of more than $125 million. Cleary said Wednesday that as a result of the agreement CruCon will become one of many subsidiaries of the Travel Leaders Group under the umbrella the Travel Leaders Leisure Group.

Established in 2008, the Travel Leaders Group has grown, primarily through acquisitions, into the largest traditional travel agency company in North America with annual sales approaching $21 billion. Among its subsidiary companies is the Travel Leaders Network, formerly Vacation.com, a consortium of travel agencies which CruCon joined in 1999.

in a joint statement, Ninan Chacko, chief executive officer of the Travel Leaders Group and Cleary said that the with the investment in CruCon they will seek to increase annual cruise sales to as much as $1 billion during the next several years.

"By investing significantly in CruCon Cruise Outlet, one of the industry's foremost cruise leaders, we see an opportunity to rapidly increase Travel Leaders Group's cruise volume," he said.

Cleary, who will manage CruCon and oversee its investment strategy, said Wednesday that the funds will be applied to expanding the company's infrastructure and workforce as well as streamlining its operations. At the same time, she said that the with access to the Travel Leaders Group's other subsidiaries, CruCon will be positioned to add air travel, hotel accommodations and other offerings at discounted rates to its portfolio, which "will enable our clients to enjoy more fulfilling and cost-effective cruise experiences." She said that CruCon expects to triple its passengers from 100,000 to 300,000 a year.

Cleary said CruCon currently employs 130 people and operates in one building while owning two others in Moultonborough.

"With the investment, we aim to grow into the other two buildings and increase the number of employees," she said, adding "if we can find the people." Like other employers in the region Cleary said that finding help has proven a challenge despite offering a competitive package of wages and benefits and providing employees three square meals a day.

Franklin man convicted of human trafficking pleads guilty to rape, extortion

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — A former Franklin man previously convicted of selling a 14-year-old into prostitution for $1,000 pleaded guilty on Monday to sexually assaulting the girl and theft by extortion for stealing a truck and money from a man by threatening to report him to police for impregnating another underage girl.
William Shine, 35, who is already serving a 14 to 60-year prison term, received an additional 3 to 30-year sentence to be served consecutively, when he appeared before Judge Robert McNamara in Merrimack County Superior Court on Wednesday. He was also ordered to complete the Sexual Offender Program while incarcerated.
“This is the first good thing you have done,” the judge told Shine as he stood with his hands shackled to a belt around his waist, flanked by his two lawyers Caroline Brown and Zachary Bland.
“I think the prosecution has entered into a plea bargain that is fair to you and protects the victims from having to go through another trial,” he continued.
While acknowledging that Shine has a very long sentence in front of him, McNamara said, Shine’s decision to accept the terms of a negotiated plea kept the victims from having to endure the added trauma of testifying about the abuse at trial.
Accepting responsibility for his crimes is an important first step in making something of his life, McNamara said.
One of Shine’s victims urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence and mandate that the defendant not be offered the protection of the Special Housing Unit at the prison but rather be consigned to serve it in general population.
“Because what goes around comes around and you should get what is coming to you,” the young girl told Shine.
Earlier, County Victim Witness Advocate Karen Sotile read a statement from another girl Shine sexually abused.
 “I never knew it would end this way, but I’m glad it did. I believe people can change and I hope you can,” it read.
On the theft by extortion charge, Shine was given a 10 to 20-year sentence, that will remain suspended on the condition of 40 years good behavior.
Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Kristin Vartanian said the agreement represented a global resolution and was in the best interest of justice and the victims. State and local police who investigated the case also supported the settlement, she told the judge.
The three girls the Shines victimized have since thanked O’Hickey for having the courage to contact police and work with them, saving them from more abuse.
On Wednesday one of the victims said without O’Hickey’s intervention “I would be dead.”
Under the terms of the plea deal the state agreed to drop or “nol pross” six other counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of indecent exposure and lewdness and a misdemeanor sexual assault charge against three different victims.

Settlement possible in Gilford bus recording case

BY BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — A Gilford man who filed a federal lawsuit claiming his children were illegally recorded as they rode the bus to school is discussing a proposed settlement.
William Baer who sued the local school district, the superintendent of schools and First Student, the company that holds the busing contract, filed notice in U.S. District Court on Monday that the parties "have engaged in communications regarding a resolution to this case."
Attorney Jared Bedrick of Rochester, who represents Baer, wrote in that should efforts to negotiate a settlement fail, the parties propose to hire a mediator after the key witnesses in the case are questioned under oath.
The agreement was jointly signed by Attorney Daniel Deschenes of Concord, who represents now retired SAU #72 Superintendent Kent Hemingway and First Student Inc.
Baer filed suit last December on behalf of his two children, charging that state and federal wiretapping laws were broken when they were recorded without warning, as no signs were posted, as the rode to school.
It was sparked after one of the Baer children was summoned to the principal's office and questioned about an incident that had occurred on the bus. During the conversation, the principal referenced an audio recording of the student made during his bus trip.
In response, Baer's son, cited the school handbook, which detailed that state law requires that any bus using recording equipment must post a sign warnings riders that they might be recorded. That bus did not have a warning sign, nor did the majority of other buses that transport Gilford students, the suit charges.
Jury selection and the trial which is estimated to last two to four days is now scheduled for May.

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