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Mysterious group steps in to pay back some customers of shuttered bus company

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Some customers who lost money when an Indianapolis-based bus company abruptly shut down in August received an unexpected payday, but it's unclear who paid them back and why.

CBS4 Problem Solvers profiled three groups who lost out when Cavallo shut its doors unexpectedly. Each of them had booked the company's charter buses for trips and found out about the closure right before they were set to leave.

It didn't look as though anyone would get their money back, since documents showed Cavallo owed millions of dollars more than it could pay back using assets.

However, in recent months two groups got letters in the mail from an outside group willing to pay up.

"The same day that I got it, I didn't fool around. I went straight over here to the bank," customer Helen Henderson said.

Henderson, 90, cancelled a trip to French Lick with her Red Hat Society group the Klazzy Ten after Cavallo closed. She had already paid the full bus fare, which totaled more than $1,000.

A couple weeks after she sent in paperwork, Henderson got her money back.

"I opened it and there was the check," Henderson said. "I'm very thankful. My group is happy about it."

Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church also lost more than $1,000 on their trip to Cincinnati to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Pastor Joy Thornton told CBS4 Problem Solvers he was surprised when, after the church filled out the necessary paperwork, they received a check in the mail.

"That was something of great excitement for us, because we just thought the money was gone," Thornton said.

That wasn't the case for every group, though. Christy Harrington, her friend, and her niece are still owed more than $4,000. The group found out about the Cavallo closure less than an hour before their two-day trip to Cincinnati and were forced to scramble to pay for buses from Lafayette.

"We haven't gotten a dime," Harrington said. "Even though I think it’s good that some people got their money back, those were people were affiliated with either a church or an organization. This was our personal money, out of our personal accounts."

CBS4 Problem Solvers wanted to know who paid the money back, but we found it difficult to decipher.

In the letter sent to Henderson, a law firm out of Springfield, Missouri said, "We have the honor of representing a client who sympathizes with your position. For that reason, our client is willing to purchase your claim against Cavallo in exchange for a full payment of your deposit."

The client, called Refund Associates LLC, remains mysterious, and calls and emails to the law firm, whose own lawyer is listed on a business filing for Refund Associates, were not returned.

Lawyers in Chicago who are in charge of Cavallo's assets told CBS4 Problem Solvers that the bus company's liquidation has not happened yet and they do not know why Refund Associates stepped in to buy some claims and re-pay them.

While Henderson and the church don't understand why they got their money back, both operate on tight budgets and said it makes a difference.

"Even though we paid it out, it was still like a gift back to us," Thornton said.

For Harrington, though, it's frustrating to know that others have received refunds while she is left trying to recoup the money on her own.

"We didn't have that money to lose like that," Harrington said. "Somebody to do the right thing, that's all I want. ... I just want somebody to give us our money back."

If you lost money when Cavallo closed down, contact CBS4 Problem Solvers at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com. You can also contact us if you have another problem you'd like us to consider.

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