A new article releases more details about a lawsuit filed against a timeshare developer and cruise line over alleged deceptive charges which are assessed to consumers as part of a timeshare exchange program. Daniel Finerman, a Flagler County, Fla., resident, filed a lawsuit against Marriot Vacations Worldwide Corporation, and International Cruise Excursion Gallery Inc. in September 2014. In the action, he claimed the companies overcharged members of it time-share program through bogus fees and that Carnival Cruise Lines deceptively created certain fees and inflated others charged to customers trading in timeshare "points" for discounts.
That case was filed in the Flagler County circuit court, but was later removed to the Jacksonville Federal Court. In November, Finerman voluntarily dismissed claims against the International Cruise Excursion Gallery. His claims against Marriot are pending.
In his latest complaint, Finerman says he and his wife booked a six-day Caribbean cruise with Carnival using accumulated points from his Marriot Vacation Club timeshare. The cruise was scheduled to depart from Ft. Lauderdale on November 9, 2014.
"In addition to his points, plaintiff paid to Carnival Corporation the sum of $566.17, which consisted of the following: $159 each for Port fees, $114.11 each for government fees, and a processing fee of $19.95," the complaint states. Finerman says he contacted Marriot Vacation Club to question the high charges, and was advised the extra fees were not covered by his timeshare points, and that they were assessed by Carnival Corporation. Still questioning the additional costs for government and port fees, Finerman says he then checked the Carnival website, and followed online the booking steps for the same cruise.
Finerman claims that "when booking through the Carnival Corporation website, rather than through Marriot Vacation Club, the total governmental and port fees quoted for plaintiff and his wife on the identical cruise amounted to $253.08." Therefore, he says, he was overcharged $311.14 when he booked the cruise using his timeshare points.
Finerman's suit claims Carnival deceptively charged he and other members of the purported class illusionary government and port fees to increase its profits, violating the Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
He is represented by John A. Yanchunis from Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group.
Read the full story by clicking "Here
Silverleaf Resorts, a timeshare developer and operator , has filed a lawsuit against Advocate for the Consumer dba Legal Advocate for the Consumer and its owners Charles H. Williams and Glenda Williams in Dallas County Court on Thursday. The suit claims that the business is a "sham entity" that "significantly interferes" with Silverleaf's and other timeshare companies' legitimate businesses. Silverleaf seeks actual and punitive damages for tortious interference with contracts, intentional interference with prospective business relations, defamation and business disparagement.
"Defendants made false allegations and published defamatory statements about Silverleaf in order to induce Silverleaf timeshare owners to pay significant up-front fees on the basis that defendants would 'assist' owners in terminating their contracts with Silverleaf," the 12-page complaint states. "Once owners paid their fee and signed up for these services, defendants continued to defame and interfere (so as to lure their next victim), but performed no work on the owners' individual cases aside from providing and/or mailing in form letters." Advocate for the Consumer's fees range from $1,500 to $1,600 fee, Silverleaf claims.
The lawsuit also alleges that Advocate for the Consumer promotes their business "as a mediation company, equipped with a team of lawyers, paralegals and former timeshare executives, that could assist consumers in 'getting out' of their timeshare contracts and obtaining refunds of their timeshare membership purchase. Defendants also promised that they would negotiate with Silverleaf for refunds of funds that owners had already paid under their timeshare contract."
"After receiving the up-front fee, defendants instructed, encouraged, and induced owners to breach their timeshare contracts with Silverleaf by stopping payments to the company immediately, which, of course, subjects the owners to potentially disastrous legal and financial harm, including foreclosure, lawsuits, deterioration of credit score, loss of principal payments made, and loss of enjoyment," the complaint stated. "Defendants also instructed, encouraged and induced owners to stop communications with Silverleaf, thereby exasperating the owners' problems."
Silverleaf claims the defendants told owners to justify their lack of payments by making false claims.
"They were told, in essence, that a good offense makes for a great defense," the complaint states. "The ACA provided the owners with form letters filled with prefabricated allegations against Silverleaf and either submitted the letter to Silverleaf itself or instructed the owners to do so."
In April 2013, Texas Attorney General, now Governor-elect Greg Abbott, sued the defendants in Dallas County Court. Abbott's office made similar accusations, of no work being performed; an injunction and asset freeze were issued the next month.
Below is an excerpt from the press release. Read the full article by clicking HERE
. If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud perpetrated by the company, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at MyFloridaLegal.com
or in-state via phone at 1-866-NO-SCAM. Out-of-state individuals can call 850-414-3990.
"... Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office has filed a lawsuit against Consumer Collection Advocates, Corp., and Michael Robert Ettus, CCA Principal, for allegedly targeting consumers who were victims of previous frauds or scams. In return for upfront payments and a percentage of any recovery, the company contracted with these victims, guaranteeing to recover the monies the victims lost as the result of the earlier fraud or scam, but often failing to deliver on that guarantee. The Attorney General’s Office also seeks to obtain an injunction to stop the business from operating in violation of Florida laws. The Federal Trade Commission has filed a parallel lawsuit against CCA in the U.S. Southern District Court of Florida. The Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau received 115 complaints about the defendants’ business practices.
“This company allegedly took advantage of consumers who had already been exploited in previous scams, and today we have taken steps to stop this business from unlawfully operating in Florida,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.
According to the investigation, the defendants violated:
· Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act by misrepresenting defendants’ business status and purported fee recovery services and making false and misleading statements to induce consumers to pay for goods or services;
· The Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule by requesting or receiving upfront payment from consumers for services represented to recover or assist in the return of money paid for by the consumer in a previous telemarketing transaction; and
· The Florida Telemarketing Act by refusing consumers a refund, credit or replacement for services which are not presented or not received as promised..."
A jury found Jessica Weinhart, formerly known as Jessica Hensen, guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for her part in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The scam claimed over a thousand victims in all 20 states and Canada, all of whom were contacted and promised timeshare resale services. The defendant took part in the scheme from 2009 until 2010 under several different company names, including Integrated Advertising Solutions, National Timeshare Resales, Administrative Timeshare Resales, and Midwest Timeshares. Victims were told that interested buyers were prepared to purchase their existing timeshares in exchange for upfront fees, ranging from $200. to $2,500. depending on how much the telemarketers believed they could collect. According to the complaint, many of the victims were elderly and had previously been targeted by similar schemes. In total, eight people have been convicted or pled guilty for their parts in this scam. Each defendant faces up to thirty years in prison. Sentencing is expected in January.
KGTV, and ABC affiliate out of San Diego has reported a possible timeshare scam involving a company using the name SD TLC Resorts. The television station had an earlier report, and in that instance were able to obtain refunds for some customers who had reported that they had been scammed. However, according to a new story it appears the business and it's owner Bob Climber continued to operate the scheme and as a result more consumers are now filing complaints claiming fraud.
An excerpt from the report is below:
"... More upset customers contacted Team 10 about a timeshare company they said ripped them off. In August, Team 10 Troubleshooter Cristin Severance already got SD TLC Resorts to refund thousands of dollars to a group of customers. However, Team 10 is now asking where the rest of the refunds are.....
Team 10 first revealed the issues with the company in August
. Several customers told Team 10 they paid thousands of dollars to the company and never got their timeshare. Climber's attorney, Allen Cate, promised refunds were coming and the people who contacted Team 10 were paid back. New clients, like Masters, started contacting Team 10 as well. Masters said Climber always had an excuse about her refund....
The SD TLC Resorts office in Oceanside is now empty..... Team 10 is waiting to hear back from Climber."Click here
to read the full article.
Two leading timeshare developers have agreed to make policy changes that will have a major impact on the timeshare industry in the state of New York. Hilton Resorts Corporation and Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc. will implement changes that will “benefit and protect customers” after reaching agreements with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, according to a statement from the attorney general released today.
(View the press release by clicking HERE
Hilton has agreed to stop using a clause that disclaims responsibility for representations made by sales people regarding the availability, hotel use rights, rental resale and buybacks of timeshare interests.
Wyndham has agreed that they will no longer offer reservation certificates to members who want to make a reservation at a timeshare hotel known as Midtown 45. Some of the timeshare members who received certificates thought that they were buying an interest in the Midtown 45 timeshare.
“The purchase of an interest in a timeshare can be a confusing and expensive proposition,” Schneiderman said in the statement. “I am pleased to announce that these two industry leaders have agreed to make policy changes that will benefit and protect consumers. With their cooperation, we are making the timeshare industry safer, more transparent, and more accessible to investors.”
The agreements come as the attorney general continues an investigation into Ian Bruce Eichner’s timeshare company the Manhattan Club, where Schneiderman’s office temporarily forbid sales in July. Eichner and his partners were asked to testify in court about alleged fraudulent sales tactics.
David Andrew Glynn pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston, West Virginia, to conspiring to defraud timeshare owners throughout the United States and Canada. Glynn said he set up a bogus company, Mountain State Resales LLC, that was purportedly in the business of brokering timeshare sales. He and his associates would contact timeshare owners and advise them the company had buyers for their timeshares, provided the owners would pay fees and expenses necessary to complete the sales.
Glynn also admitted that he contacted timeshare owners who had been victims of prior fraud schemes and in those calls he posed as an agent with Internal Revenue Recovery Associates, a fake business he claimed was affiliated with a governmental agency. Glynn represented that he was investigating timeshare fraud schemes and needed the victims to send money to assist with its recovery efforts, Goodwin said.
During his plea hearing, Glynn admitted that Mountain State Resale was not a legitimate business and had simply been created to defraud owners of timeshares. He said he'd received more than $86,000 from the scams.
As part of his plea agreement, Glynn must make full restitution to his victims. Sentencing was set for Nov. 24.
The investigation of this case was handled by West Virginia State Police, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith George Thomas overseeing his prosecution.
In May 2013, the FTC alleged that Resort Property Depot Inc. and Narendra “Nick” Patel made unsolicited telemarketing calls
to timeshare owners and tricked them into paying fees ranging from $300 to $3,000, and that Resort Solution Trust Inc., Lincoln Renwick II, and Anthony Talavera deceived thousands of consumers into paying advance fees ranging between $800 and $3,400. Consumers did not receive what they were promised, and they were denied refunds. The court subsequently halted the defendants’ allegedly deceptive practices, froze their assets, and put the companies into receivership pending litigation.
Under both settlement orders, in addition to the ban on selling timeshare resale services, the defendants are permanently prohibited from telemarketing, misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, collecting money from customers, selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of customer information.
The settlement order against Resort Property Depot and Patel
imposes a judgment of more than $2.6 million, which will be suspended when the defendants have paid $175,000 to the Commission and Patel has surrendered his car and certain bank and investment accounts. A default judgment was entered against Resort Solution Trust in December 2013. The settlement order announced today against Renwick and Talavera
imposes a judgment of more than $6.4 million, which will be suspended when Renwick has transferred to the FTC possession of bank accounts and a car. The full judgments will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated final orders was 5-0. The orders against Resort Property Depot, and against Renwick and Talavera, were entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, on July 1, 2014, and June 25, 2014, respectively.
According to the complaint filed by the FTC and Florida’s Attorney General
in the Universal Timeshare case, the defendants claimed they had buyers who would pay a specified price for consumers’ timeshare properties, or that the defendants would quickly sell those timeshares, and charged consumers up to $2,200 in connection with the promised sale. In fact, the defendants did not have buyers lined up to pay any price for consumers’ timeshares. Sheldon Lee Cohen, who resides and operates a telemarketing business in the Dominican Republic, was the mastermind and main perpetrator behind this scam.
The complaint charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), including calling consumers with numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, as well as the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Florida Timeshare Resale Accountability Act. The court subsequently halted the defendants’ deceptive practices, froze their U.S. assets, and appointed a receiver over the two companies, and over Cohen, when doing business as Universal Timeshare Sales Associates and M.G.M. Universal Timeshares, pending litigation.
Under the court order, all of the defendants are banned from selling timeshare resale services
. They also are prohibited from violating the TSR and two Florida laws, and from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, including the total cost, any restrictions, the nature or terms of a refund or cancellation policy, and the income likely to be realized. The defaulting defendants (Cohen and his company, Vacation Communications Group LLC) are also banned from telemarketing.
The order imposes a judgment of more than $1.2 million against the settling defendants (Tammie Lynn Cline, Mark Russell Gardner, and their former telemarketing company, Gardner Cline LLC), which will be suspended based on their inability to pay. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. The judgment for $10.2 million against the defaulting defendants is immediately due and payable upon entry of the court order.
The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated final order was 5-0. The judgment was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, on June 16, 2014.
A former employee of The Vacation Ownership Group LLC, was sentenced today to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $3 million in restitution for conspiring to defraud owners of timeshare properties, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Eric Reilly, 34, of Galloway, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Reilly entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman, who also imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The Vacation Ownership Group, a/k/a VO Group LLC, purported to offer owners of timeshares consulting services, including timeshare cancellation services. In September 2010, Reilly started working at the VO Group and was trained by VO Group managers to call using a prepared script and regularly lie to customers. Reilly would falsely state he was calling in response to a complaint they had made to timeshare developers and lenders. He gave customers the false impression that he was working for Wyndham Vacation Resorts, a developer of timeshare resorts. Reilly then would falsely represent that the VO Group could pay off the customers’ timeshares or have their timeshares cancelled. Reilly falsely told some customers that their credit would not be damaged if they stopped paying for their timeshares. Reilly gave some customers “references” who were actually VO Group employees posing as satisfied customers. After hearing Reilly’s false representations, some customers sent checks to the VO Group, including one customer who sent the VO Group a $31,385 check. Reilly admitted to causing more than $70,000 in losses.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Hillman sentenced Reilly to serve three years of supervised release and to pay $3,040,767.54 in restitution.