When people purchase a timeshare for the first time, negative repercussions are never at the forefront of their minds. It’s pretty much sunshine and rainbows in the beginning stages. While the sales presentation might have been overwhelming, new buyers are usually extremely content with their initial decision – and some remain that way. Others experience remorse quickly after they realize front-end disclosure was vague, misrepresented, or outright omitted. This can occur when owners realize availability isn’t what they were promised or when they stumble across hidden contract obligations. Unexpected annual fees often catch first time owners off guard. When a timeshare owner ends up feeling conned or trapped they usually start looking for a company that knows how to get rid of timeshare purchases.
Unfortunately, like our last article pointed out, finding relief is a lot easier said than done. Every year, tens of thousands of people are robbed during their quest to cancel a timeshare. Not only are resorts working against them to keep them under contract, but 3rd party “solutions” are bombarding them with ambiguous promises.
Far too many fractional owners truly don’t know their timeshare is perpetual. They think they can ask for a refund if it doesn’t work out. Once they realize they can’t cancel (because their rescission period has passed), they tend to begin losing hope in the resort. Especially if their decision to upgrade packages (as a solution commonly offered by their resort) backfires too.
But trusting 3rd party resolutions isn’t always fruitful either. Some buyers become desperate at a certain point which causes them to be irrational. Predatory agencies love consumer desperation. Truth be told, some timeshare owners really get drug through the mud after they sign the dotted line. The budgeted expense can turn into a devastating financial setback if you’re not careful. Since you can read all about this in some of our other blogs, let’s turn our attention back to some of the companies that claimed they knew how to get rid of timeshare purchases – but they just couldn’t get the job done.
Resort Release Files for Bankruptcy After Collecting Fees.
This year is already proving to be a progressive one when it comes to halting unethical timeshare cancellation services. A number of bankruptcies have already been filed while even more scams have been exposed. Incompetent operations, that persuade vulnerable timeshare owners to hand over thousands of dollars for nothing, are slowly being held responsible. To say regulatory agencies have been busy is an understatement.
When timeshare exit companies first came about, they had their way with fractional owners. Vague accusations didn’t warrant lawsuits. Now that laws and regulations are in place, prosecutors can begin holding scam artists accountable. Because buyers are asking more questions and understanding their rights, they’ve been able to prove they’ve been lied to more than ever before. Especially when guarantees are involved.
This was the case when Resort Release LLC – also known as the American Resource Management Group, LLC (ARMG), Resort Exit Team and Redemption Services – recently attempted to sweep their inaptitude under the rug. The timeshare relief service filed for bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida in April this year. During their hearings, some major red flags were uncovered. This forced the court to order a Chapter 11 Trustee to take control of the business and review all of their financial affairs.
An Unethical Trend Causes Them to Throw in the Towel.
Shortly before filing bankruptcy, Resort Release began receiving multiple complaints on their BBB profile. To date, their response to every grievance has remained consistent. They’re claiming none of the dissatisfied customers ever did business with them. Hopefully they’re not leaning on denial to escape penalty. If a business promotes an ability to get rid of timeshare purchases, it’s rather clear what the end result should look like.
Ever since Resort Release’s filing, legal questions surrounding their up-front costs have been a hot topic amongst those overseeing the investigation. What they were giving in exchange for payment wasn’t adding up. But it wasn’t the only thing not making sense. During proceedings the defendant continued to claim they were located in the midwest but the company was clearly operating in Florida. Little lies like this led others to believe something unethical was going on.
The ignorance of their approach was concerning to say the least. Apparently, they thought they could lie to the court and it would be glazed over. ARMG also didn’t have ample financial reserves to cover their 100% guarantees. Not only was the company making promises they knew they couldn’t keep, they didn’t even have the capital to back it up. In the meantime, their clients had no idea.
What many can’t figure out is, how does a company that collected millions of dollars in upfront fees have no money? Keep in mind, they didn’t just sell their services to a few dozen people. Resort Release told thousands of fractional owners they could help them get rid of timeshare purchases, guaranteed. As the public’s awareness of the bankruptcy claim grows, more and more people are filing suit for false advertising and a failure to adhere to the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. We’ll keep you updated.
Escort Release Sued by Major Timeshare Chains.
Positioned as an advocate company, Escort Release recently was targeted by a number of major hospitality organizations for misleading timeshare owners. While there isn’t a lot of information online about this situation, we know they immediately filed for bankruptcy following pending lawsuits.
What an advocacy group does is represent unhappy buyers in their attempt to get rid of timeshare purchases. They basically support their client’s stance by advocating on their behalf. Call it a sophisticated hype man if you may. There is no legal approach to this. Escort Release essentially told their prospects that they could negotiate a settlement with the resort without taking legal action. Unfortunately, we don’t know of any advocacy agencies that’ve been able to sustain their ability to eliminate timeshare contracts.
Vacation Owners Group Linked with Wesley Financial.
This is probably one of the more complex operations that’s been exposed to date. Not because of the amount of money or number of victims, but the level of deception. When it comes to identifying timeshare exit fraud, a company with numerous aliases should always raise a red flag. Vacation Owners Group definitely falls under this category.
Otherwise known as VO Group and VO Financial, the operation solicited timeshare owners and offered to settle their outstanding timeshare mortgages by negotiating with timeshare property associations, banking and lending institutions. The owner of Wesley Financial Group, Chuck McDowell, is being tied to these companies through a number of online resources. Already being linked as a key player behind multiple companies deemed scams, McDowell purportedly exited VO Group just before legal action was taken and arrests were made. But let’s backtrack a little to follow the paper trail.
Vacation Owners Group got its start nearly a decade ago by soliciting timeshare owners about their new relief program. They initially engaged their victims by claiming they were calling regarding a complaint they had about their timeshare. It was used as a way “to get their foot in the door” and gather more information about the timeshare property. When owners would open up about their frustrations, solicitors would then tell them they could easily get rid of timeshare purchases if they really wanted to.
Victims say each company solicited them with claims to be able to recover money from timeshare companies (Mainly Wyndham) for fraudulent sales practices on a contingency basis (10%) and no up front fees. Many that were scammed have since come forward, revealing the contract provided by Vacation Ownership Group actually contradicted these claims. Over the years, thousands of people have taken the bait and still own their timeshares.
The Public Realized VO Couldn’t Get Rid of Timeshare Purchases.
The VO Group’s trail inevitably caught up to them when they fell under federal investigation. Victim testimonies and defendant interviews exposed the company’s deceitful ploy. In an FBI conducted interview with Adam Lacerda (co-owner of The VO Group), he admitted, in substance and in part, that The VO Group did not work with any banking or lending institutions. Yet, in another interview, Ryan Bird (a co-conspirator) stated that he told customers The VO Group worked directly for banks and had the ability to settle customer’s timeshare mortgage debt. Like many other timeshare scams, the lies ran rampant in this scheme, proving the services rendered were fraudulent.
Victims of The VO Group said their timeshare was never paid off (by any means or by settlement) after paying thousands to The VO Group. But continuing payments on the timeshare they wanted to get out of wasn’t the only letdown. They later found out they also fell victim to a “bait and switch” scheme where they unknowingly became liable for an additional timeshare. All because they trusted a relief company to help them get rid of their timeshare purchases. One of the company’s former attorneys even went on record saying he attempted to cover VO Group’s tracks by obstructing justice in a federal criminal case back in 2013. It’s no wonder McDowell slipped out the back door.
Casualties Have Continued to Pile Up From the Scam
To this day, timeshare owners are still complaining about the predatory scam. Whether the sales pitch was coming from VO or is currently coming from Wesley Financial Group, customers are voicing their complaints on both companies. Some victims have even claimed Wesley Group is using the same phony reviews as VO was. Although sources show McDowell was the VP of both operations, it appears he’s somehow been able to escape consequence. There is a saying that you may be familiar with, “a leopard never changes its spots.” Hopefully, this proves not to be the case for Wesley Financial Group, although customer complaints on Wesley Financial Group’s BBB page are proving otherwise.
While online documentation does connect the owner of Wesley Financial Group to a number of scandals that didn’t know how to get rid of timeshare purchases, it’s not our place to say history is repeating itself. Maybe he’s learned from mistakes. Either way, it’s ultimately up to you to do your own research and make your own determination before doing business with any relief company.
You Deserve to Enjoy a Timeshare Experience.
Timeshare ownership isn’t always a devastating experience. But in order to thoroughly enjoy the purchase, you have to understand what you could be getting yourself into. Whether we like it or not, unwelcome and damaging solicitations lurk around every corner. In order to avoid costly decisions, you must review the details of everything you agree to, research every business and always ignore appeal. We live in a digital world with information at our fingertips. Stay up to date and obtain factual information that equips you make informed decisions.
At VOC, we remain committed to spreading awareness on misconduct so consumers can make smart choices online. All we can do is state the facts and hope for the best. In the meantime, we look forward to sharing more of our clients stories. To learn more about our industry-leading reputation, you can subscribe to our blog, schedule a Free consultation or proceed with the qualification form below.