Current Players – 4/25/16

The following people and companies are being reported as offering to resell Mexican timeshares in the recent past.  They may or may not be scams.  Caveat emptor.  Follow the links to learn more.  For a description of potential fraudulent schemes, look here and here. For advice on how to avoid a timeshare resale fraud, look here.

AARROWllc.  According to a comment on the FTC’s blog post, this is a scam.

Ace Travel Agency Inc. (affiliated with Metropolitan Title and Escrow Services LLC).  According to a tip received at Inside the Gate, they were running a resale scam as recently as last month.

Austin Marketing Services in Denver, Colorado.  According to a comment at Inside the Gate these groups are asking for advance fees to sell a timeshare in Mexico.

Corporate Connections International.  Also reported as a scam by a consumer on the FTC’s blog post.

Hunter Levison Group (Transasset Financial).  According to a comment at Inside the Gate these groups are asking for advance fees to sell a timeshare in Mexico.

Icon Brokerage Group (affiliated with Associated Escrow Services, Inc).  They are reportedly asking owners to wire advance fee money to an escrow account in Oregon.

Liberty Interactive Solutions.  According to a comment on the FTC’s blog, a company by this name has obtained up-front payments from the commenter’s family member and are requesting more.

Paradise Vacation Rentals in New Orleans, Louisiana (affiliated with Sharpe Closings in Littleton Colorado.)  According to a comment on the FTC blog, they are asking for money to be wired to Mexico in advance of closing, which is a classic danger sign of fraud.

Platinum Legacy Escrow of 601 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California. According to a complaint, the offered to buy back a timeshare in Mexico, as long as the owner wired some money up front.  Any request for upfront wires to Mexico to “sell” a timeshare is a danger sign.

Premium Marketing International LLC.  According to a complaint, this company took $2,000 in exchange for a promise to rent and sell a timeshare and never provided those services.

Realty 21 (affiliated with California Capital).  According to a comment at Inside the Gate, they are running a scam (as confirmed by a potential victim verifying with the resort that they are not legitimate.)

Spotlight Resorts.  According to this complaint, Spotlight Resorts in Huntington Beach, California, is running an advance fee scam.  The first fee was a “title search” and the second was to let the verified buyer travel to see the resort.

Travel Marketing World, LLC., who claim to be from Princeton New Jersey (affiliated with Colonial Title in Georgia).  According to a comment on the FTC blog, they are asking for a $3,000 Mexican SAT tax to be paid by in advance by wire prior to closing, which is a classic danger sign of fraud.

Vacation Consulting Services (affiliated with Transfer Group LLC).  According to a comment on the FTC blog, this is a scam.

Vacation Privileges.  According to this complaint, a group is running a scam similar to the Platinum Access Program scam in Puerto Vallarta.  According to that complaint, a person bought the Vacation Privileges program in exchange for a promise that a condo elsewhere would be resold.  No resale occurred, according to the complaint.

Vacation Connections, LLC and Title Investments LLC.  According to two complaints, Vacation Connections and Title Investments are running a classic Mexico timeshare resale fraud.

 

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Current Players – 4/2/2016

The following people and companies are being reported as offering to resell Mexican timeshares in the recent past.  They may or may not be scams.  Caveat emptor.  Follow the links to learn more.  For a description of potential fraudulent schemes, look here and here.

AARROWllc.  According to a comment on the FTC’s blog post, this is a scam.

Ace Travel Agency Inc. (affiliated with Metropolitan Title and Escrow Services LLC).  According to a tip received at Inside the Gate, they were running a resale scam as recently as last month.

Corporate Connections International.  Also reported as a scam by a consumer on the FTC’s blog post.

Icon Brokerage Group (affiliated with Associated Escrow Services, Inc).  They are reportedly asking owners to wire advance fee money to an escrow account in Oregon.

Liberty Interactive Solutions.  According to a comment on the FTC’s blog, a company by this name has obtained up-front payments from the commenter’s family member and are requesting more.

Premium Marketing International LLC.  According to a complaint, this company took $2,000 in exchange for a promise to rent and sell a timeshare and never provided those services.

Realty 21 (affiliated with California Capital).  According to a comment at Inside the Gate, they are running a scam (as confirmed by a potential victim verifying with the resort that they are not legitimate.)

Spotlight Resorts.  According to this complaint, Spotlight Resorts in Huntington Beach, California, is running an advance fee scam.  The first fee was a “title search” and the second was to let the verified buyer travel to see the resort.

Vacation Consulting Services (affiliated with Transfer Group LLC).  According to a comment on the FTC blog, this is a scam.

Vacation Privileges.  According to this complaint, a group is running a scam similar to the Platinum Access Program scam in Puerto Vallarta.  According to that complaint, a person bought the Vacation Privileges program in exchange for a promise that a condo elsewhere would be resold.  No resale occurred, according to the complaint.

Vacation Connections, LLC and Title Investments LLC.  According to two complaints, Vacation Connections and Title Investments are running a classic Mexico timeshare resale fraud.

Additional Sentences in Fleifel Conspiracy

Joseph Bud Ramos and Kari Lynn Cash were each sentenced to prison last month for their roles in the Fleifel conspiracy.  Ramos was sentenced to 30 months in prison and Cash received five years in prison.

When Ramos pled guilty last year, he admitted that he and others in the fraud conspiracy would tell timeshare owners that they had a bona fide offer to buy their timeshares, that money was in escrow, that the deal was guaranteed to close within 90 days, and that all they needed to do to make the deal happen was to send an upfront payment for fees to make the deal happen.  (See Ramos Facts)  In reality, there was no buyer lined up and Ramos and his co-conspirators took between $1 million and $2.5 million in upfront fees from their victims.  His plea agreement with the government included an agreed sentence of five years in prison.

Cash admitted to nearly identical facts when she pled guilty.  (See Cash Facts)

The status of the defendants in the Fleifel case are:

  • Edmond Charles Burke: pled guilty, awaiting sentencing;
  • Kari Lynn Cash: 60 months in prison and $1,315,714.83 in restitution;
  • Fabian C Fleifel: 168 months in prison and $1,330,116.28  in restitution;
  • Kevin Jacob Frater: 21 months in prison and restitution to be determined;
  • Bradley James Gomez: 30 months in prison and $1,317,804.83 in restitution;
  • Rani F Khoury:  pled guilty, awaiting sentencing;
  • Courtney Darell Lister: pled guilty, awaiting sentencing;
  • Joseph Bud Ramos: 60 months in prison and $1,110,067.24 in restitution;
  • Amanda Nadine Rizkallah: home confinement for 6 months and $1,725,916.22  in restitution;
  • Eric Rosado: 21 months in prison and $10,371.97 in restitution.

 

 

Current Players

The following people and companies are being reported as offering to resell Mexican timeshares.  They may or may not be scams.  Caveat emptor.  Follow the links to learn more.

Icon Brokerage Group.  They are reportedly asking owners to wire money to an escrow account in Oregon.  This appears to be linked to Associated Escrow Services, Inc.

Liberty Interactive Solutions.  According to a comment on the FTC’s blog, a company by this name has obtained up-front payments from the commenter’s family member and are requesting more.

Premium Marketing International LLC.  According to a complaint, this company took $2,000 in exchange for a promise to rent and sell a timeshare and never provided those services.

Vacation Privileges.  According to this complaint, a group is running a scam similar to the infamous John Monte / Platinum Access Program scam in Puerto Vallarta.  According to that complaint, a person bought the Vacation Privileges program in exchange for a promise that a condo elsewhere would be resold.  No resale occurred, according to the complaint.

Vacation Connections, LLC and Title Investments LLC.  According to two complaints, Vacation Connections and Title Investments are running a classic Mexico timeshare resale fraud.

Second Sentence in the Freeman Conspiracy

Craig R. Malton, 35, was sentenced on March 4, 2016, to serve 44 months in federal prison for his role in a timeshare fraud conspiracy and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,843,672.00.  He was charged on March 27, 2013, as being part of the Freeman timeshare resale fraud conspiracy and he was arrested two years later when he attempted to enter the United States from Mexico at the Arizona border.  Malton was originally a database administrator and programmer for the Freeman conspiracy, but he admitted in a sentencing memorandum that he eventually defrauded timeshare owners as well.  As Malton’s lawyer wrote:

Mr. Malton was set up with a desk in the call center area of the office and he began to observe the operation of the company.  He observed that a group of employees called Lead Generators would reach out to time share owners to see if they were interested in selling their properties.  If the owners were interested in selling, they would be passed over to another smaller group of employees called Closers.  The Closer would explain how the process worked to the owner and would begin to collect a series of fees from the owner.  The fees were represented to be fully refundable upon the closing of the sale.  Mr. Malton observed that the Closers repeatedly reached out to timeshare owners for more and more fees and “taxes.”  He also noticed that no purchase of any timeshare ever seemed to close, and no timeshares were being sold by the company.  This is when Mr. Malton began to understand that the business was not a legitimate real estate concern, but a fraud.

On February 11, 2016, Malton’s co-defendant Gilbert Brett Freeman was sentenced to 240 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $4,867,553.00.  He has filed a notice that he intends to appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Three Sentenced in the Fleifel Conspiracy

Fabien C. Fleifel, 45,  was sentenced to 168 months in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy that involved mail fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud.  He will be required to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution.

Bradley James Gomez, 36, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy, and was also ordered to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution.

Amanda Nadine Rizkallah, 32, was sentenced to six months of home detention and a five-year term of probation.

According to the Department of Justice, the conspiracy involved unsolicited telephone calls to owners of resort timeshare properties to induce them into paying fees associated with the bogus sale of their property.  Fleifel and others opened bank accounts and entered into merchant account agreements to process and collect funds raised in the scheme, and they set up phony mailing addresses to collect funds mailed in by timeshare owners.

Fleifel hired and trained telemarketers to work in boiler rooms he set up.  These telemarketers were instructed to call timeshare owners using scripted sales pitches that falsely represented, for example, that a bona fide buyer was interested in buying their property, that the buyer had paid money into an escrow account, and that the buyer was ready to close on the property.  The telemarketers falsely advised timeshare owners that they would receive all the funds from the sale within days, they must pay a one-time fee to cover the title search and other closing costs, and they would be refunded all fees paid if the sale did not close within 90 days.

After the conspirators obtained money from the timeshare owners, they made additional false and fraudulent statements to lull them and to keep them from investigating the transactions, complaining to law enforcement, or requesting charge backs to their credit cards.

Toward the end of the conspiracy, Fleifel set up and operated a boiler room called Consumer Rights Advocates.  Fleifel’s telemarketers contacted timeshare owners who previously were defrauded during the conspiracy or were defrauded by other boiler rooms operating a similar fraud.  Fleifel’s telemarketers fraudulently represented that, for a fee, they could recover the timeshare owners’ lost funds.

The full list of members of the conspiracy were:

  • Edmond Charles Burke, 34, of Sanford, Florida;
  • Kari Lynn Cash, 46, of Winter Park, Florida;
  • Kevin Jacob Frater, 35, of Longwood, Florida;
  • Fabien C. Fleifel, 45,  of Winter Springs, Florida;
  • Bradley James Gomez, 36, of Longwood, Florida;
  • Rani F. Khoury, 40, of Lake Mary, Florida;
  • Courtney Darrell Lister, 39, of Midland, Texas;
  • Joseph Bud Ramos, 27, of Tennessee;
  • Armanda Nadine Rizkallah, 32, of Oviedo, Florida;
  • Eric Rosado, of Orlando, Florida;
  • Kevin Sanchez of Orlando, Florida;
  • Cesar Trinidad of Apopka, Florida.

 

Mexican Timeshare Rescue Fraud

Have you been the victim of a Mexican timeshare resale fraud?  Beware the next scammer coming your way: the rescue fraud.  Here’s how it works:

You finally realized that you had been victimized, stopped wiring more money to Mexico, and contacted your local authorities.  They probably told you that there is little chance that you will get your money back and little chance that the perpetrators will ever be identified, let alone brought to justice.

Your name gets passed from one set of scammers to another.  A new phone call or letter comes, seeming to be an answer to your prayers.  The Mexican authorities have broken up the criminal cartel that was responsible for scamming you out of tens of thousands of dollars.  You have been identified as one of their vicitms.  Sometimes they claim that the Mexican government has set up a compensation fund, and sometimes they claim that they are an attorney in Mexico who is authorized to seek compensation on your behalf.  All it takes is a small up front fee to retain the lawyer, or to stake your claim from the Mexican authorities.

Desperate, and hoping to undo some of the damage from the last scam, you send the money.  You’ve been hooked again.  Just as the last group did, they will ask you to send more and more money, always promising that this is the last small hurdle to recovering your losses, there is just one new fee that needs to be paid to a bureaucrat in Mexico before you can finally be made whole.  In reality, there is no compensation fund set up, or the lawyer that you are paying is not in any position to obtain any compensation for you.