Destination Timeshare Wedding Asks Guests to Pay For Cancun Trip.

Over the past year or so, our news articles have shown that a majority of timeshare companies and third party relief agencies will do or say anything to close the deal. For the most part, every transaction flows from the initial sale. Whether timeshare owners are spending more money to make the purchase worth it or escape perpetuity, the result rarely plays out the way they expected. Since many buyers never truly enjoy the experience, you’d think timeshare developers would improve their product. But they don’t – and a recent Reddit post about a destination timeshare wedding could be telling us how they’re deceivingly adapting to sell more weekly intervals.

What Is Reddit and How is it Used?

Reddit is a fairly new platform that aggregates a number of topics, posted by its users, and ranks them based on popularity. Unlike other social platforms, where trends and news is dictated to users, Reddit highlights what people really want to read. Like most user generated platforms and chat rooms, timeshares are a hot topic. While bias remarks and inaccuracy is a concern, the platform does provide a lot of insight and information on the timeshare experience. Based on a post earlier this month, it seems like the lure of a destination timeshare wedding is being used to fill sales presentations for a resort in Cancun.

The Details of the Destination Timeshare Wedding.

After finding herself concerned with a wedding invite that her boyfriend wanted to turn into a vacation, Katie turned to a friend for advice. Upon hearing the details of the trip, the friend agreed that her hesitation was valid. Aside from expecting their guests to pay for airfare and lodging, the couple getting married told invitees they’d have to attend a timeshare presentation in order to come. After agreeing the concept was pretty “tacky,” Katie allowed her friend to create a Reddit post to justify their initial gut feelings.

At first, Katie’s indecisiveness had more to do with her personal finances and the cost of the trip. She also wasn’t too happy about taking time off of work to attend a Monday wedding on 4/20 (AKA “weed day”). Her friend even informed her that people normally receive something free for attending a timeshare presentation. It was obvious she knew nothing about this method of travel because she was seriously considering going for her boyfriend’s sake. But once online users started commenting on the post, her perspective more than likely changed drastically.

Online Feedback Sheds Light on Some Truth.

One user chimed in by saying, “I refuse to sit through a timeshare even when they offer free rooms and dinners etc. I am not going to sit through one to attend a wedding when I get nothing out of it.” Some proposed ideas on how to manage the situation. “Tell your friend to encourage her boyfriend to go by himself.” Another wrote, “[I] might consider staying somewhere else (probably cheaper and no presentation – which by the way drag on forever, are incredibly boring and use high-pressure sales tactics).” Others simply “want an update after the wedding.” I think we all will want to see how this plays out. It’s a fairly unique situation.

WHAT TO MAKE OF THIS SITUATION?

While an opportunity like this may be tempting, Katie’s friend gave her solid advice. “I told her I’d put my foot down and not go because that’s absurd to ask of your guests.” It almost seems as though the bride and groom are setting themselves up for a free vacation or some sort of reward by organizing a mass presentation. When you think about it, there’s a good chance that some of the guests attending their destination timeshare wedding will sign up for a weekly interval

Since the ceremony has yet to happen, it’s hard to tell what the plot is here. But it’s safe to say that selling timeshare units is the focal point. Hopefully, Katie goes with her gut on this. The longer she allows people to influence her, the harder it’ll be to say no. The last thing you’d want to be is vulnerable during an aggressive sales pitch that other guests are buying into.

Is This The Future of Timeshare Sales?

If timeshare companies are now rewarding their owners for signing up friends and family, things could get a little hairy. Not only does this add an extra layer of protection for them when it comes to contractual disagreements, but it’s another way for them to point the blame. If you’ve been invited to a timeshare presentation, do yourself a favor and research what it entails. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into beforehand can save you an awful lot of regret in the long run.

Timeshare Exit Team Gives Client a Refund After a News Story in St. Charles, MO.

Timeshare Exit Team Gives Client a Refund After a News Story in St. Charles, MO.

Like many vacation owners, Ron Russelburg eventually grew tired of his timeshare contract. Once his kids were all grown up and the family was somewhat dispersed, he didn’t have much of a need for the travel package anymore. After looking for an affordable way to offload the timeshare, Russelburg determined selling his weekly interval at the Calypso Cay Resort in Orlando, Florida was the best solution. This is a fairly common decision that’s often misunderstood. But once he came across an advertisement for the Timeshare Exit Team, he was ready to take action.

In an interview with KMOV4 in St. Louis, Ron explained how Timeshare Exit Team’s guarantees really convinced him that selling his property was a good idea. Although the relief market is quite muddy, he acknowledged that confidence in a beneficial outcome really encouraged him to go forward with the sale. This was in October of 2017.

Guarantees Encourage Timeshare Owners to Pay.

After discussing the process with the well-known, reputable cancellation firm, Ron said he felt good about proceeding with the transaction. According to Russelburg, the salesman insisted that Timeshare Exit Team would find a buyer within 180 days. But he was first advised to work with the company to eliminate his annual maintenance fees. So he agreed to pay a few thousand dollars in upfront fees to get the ball rolling. 

By February of 2020, Russelburg’s frustration with the effectiveness of the sale reached its tipping point. Aside from the guarantees to remove maintenance fees, 27 months had passed without any scent of a sale. So he contacted his local news channel for help. His main cause for concern was the reluctance of Timeshare Exit Team to follow through with their promises. “It was their guarantee that if it didn’t work out we could get our money back. It would be no harm no foul,” he said.

Why Would Timeshare Exit Team Do This?

When the Missouri journalist asked him why he’s yet to receive a refund, Ron replied by saying, “That’s a good question.” Thousands of vacation owners are not only trapped in their timeshare contracts, but left without answers by relief agencies. Sadly, many of these “guaranteed” services are scams. What makes this story interesting is that Timeshare Exit Team has had some success helping consumers get out of timeshare contracts in the past. 

At the same time, convincing someone that you can help them sell a timeshare, then charging them to cancel annual fees seems a little odd. Once the interval of transferred to another owner, the original buyer shouldn’t have to worry about annual responsibilities. Nonetheless, Russelburg was out over $4k with no resolve.

When the St. Louis news station reached out to the Timeshare Exit Team for answers, a refund was initiated within a few days. This is encouraging because it shows that the company isn’t willing to inconvenience a customer in order to make a few thousand dollars. At the same time, it’s fair to wonder if a refund would have transpired had Mr. Russelburg not gone to the media for assistance.

Timeshare Exit Team’s Refund Statement.

Due to the negative attention caused by the public media, Timeshare Exit Team released the following statement: “Since 2011, [we have] successfully helped more than 20,000 consumers find a path out of their timeshares. Most of these people were unhappy with their timeshare purchase and faced numerous traps, loopholes and maintenance/other fees. Unfortunately, there was some confusion by this customer regarding the time frame detailed in our contract and a separate agreement that one of our third-party vendors had made with her. 

Timeshare Exit Team has never had a 180-day guarantee and we’re very sorry for any frustrations this may have caused. We have clarified this and she has relayed that she understands [our] time frame. We completely understood their frustration at this process, made unnecessarily complicated due to the hurdles that developers put up to keep people stuck in their timeshare, and have reached out to make it right. We offered to find another exit option for them, which they declined, so we are providing them with a full refund.”

Truth be told, Ron paid for a straightforward service and a very specific outcome. Whether Timeshare Exit Team made guarantees or not, we can’t miss the big picture here. Resale just can’t be viewed as a realistic option to get rid of a timeshare. Participating In this type of relief can ruin a company’s reputation fast if they’re not careful.

Another Conspirator Sentenced for Orlando, Florida Timeshare Resale Con.

Another Conspirator Sentenced for Orlando, Florida Timeshare Resale Con.

Last summer, we covered a large scale scam where Daniel “Wolf” Boyer paid dozens of co-conspirators to sell fraudulent timeshare resale services to vulnerable owners. While a majority have already pleaded guilty, the investigation presumes. Paul Michael Marciniak is the second primary co-conspirator to receive his sentence. After the group of greedy entrepreneurs he joined fleeced more than a thousand fractional owners for over $3.3 million, you can’t blame consumer protection agencies for doing their due diligence to ensure justice is served. The well-known Florida timeshare resale con is rounding out to be quite the ploy.

How Did the Con Men Pull it Off?

Boyer, Marciniak and their team of con artists solicited timeshare owners with offers to sell their timeshare and remove the financial burden for nearly 2 years. The telemarketing scheme used personal data illegally to contact their victims and aggressively pressured them to quickly hand over thousands of dollars before the interested buyers found another property. 

The problem was, there was never a potential buyer – or any opportunity to sell for that matter. This has come to be known as “the buyer’s pitch.” Everything about the sale funneled towards a limited opportunity that never developed. While this allowed them to bamboozle a lot of people, it didn’t take long for consumers to catch on.

What Eventually Gave the Con Away?

 When assessing timeshare exit companies, it’s always best to initially examine public business information. With scams, you’ll often find noticeable inconsistencies, mirages and even duplicate information. That’s right, some people actually use the names of legitimate businesses to operate the fraud. Some end up using multiple aliases as a way to continue defrauding consumers. While a Florida timeshare resale con like this may seem valid at first glance, a little bit of research can go a long way. Unfortunately, tons of people didn’t catch this glitch.

Boyer and Marciniak’s operation was ironically listed under a number of business aliases that include: First Capital Financial Services Corp, Beneficial Business Solutions, Holiday Advertising, Vacation Funding Partners LP, Great West Funding and Property, People, Travel. In order to use these company names, accomplices scoured the internet for inactive businesses that were once licensed to operate in different states. 

This allowed them to purchase and promote the entities as their own, across the entire country. By using old company information and reviews, they were able to build trust with unhappy timeshare owners. They even went as far as buying local phone numbers so those they solicited wouldn’t be caught off guard. 

While it may have seemed like Boyer and Marciniak had sustained businesses nationwide, they were actually running a ghost scheme from their headquarters in Orlando, Florida. The Florida timeshare resale con was even renting interim office spaces and using false identities to carry out the misconduct. But the paper trail eventually caught up to them in the long run.

Marciniak Pleads Guilty, Joins 17 Others in Prison.

So far, 20 people have been charged for pleading guilty to mail and wire fraud. Paul Michael Marciniak, who has now been deemed as one of the main suspects, will spend 5 years and 10 months in federal prison for his selfish decisions. Aside from handing over $3.37 million as a restitution payment to the victimized timeshare owners, he’ll also receive 3 years of supervised release. Now that Paul’s involvement has officially earned him jail time, only three co-conspirators are waiting for their sentence.

The Acadia Village Resort is Leasing Back Timeshare Intervals From the City of Ellsworth.

The Acadia Village Resort is Leasing Back Timeshare Intervals From the City of Ellsworth.

When vacation owners walk away from resort obligations or legally cancel the contract altogether, most don’t realize the impact it has on the city in which the interval is hosted. A number of towns across our country have suffered from the inadequacies of timeshare travel. In recent years, the Acadia Village Resort, a once coveted property that’s located just south of Graham Lake in Maine, has not only struggled to retain timeshare owners, but attract them as well. This has caused the city of Ellsworth to seriously consider chasing timeshare companies out of town. 

Timeshares Can Make or Break the Economy in Small Towns.

But before explaining their reasoning or what’s been proposed, we have to understand how bad business by timeshare companies can handicap an economy. When it comes to The Acadia Village’s timeshare structure, each week (interval) that’s sold for every condo is considered its own individual property. Since the resort was constructed with 39 timeshare units, that means there are over 2,000 available weekly intervals. Each of which comes with their own tax bills and deeds. When these aren’t filled or being fulfilled, municipalities are left with years of unpaid taxes. 

In Ellsworth, city officials have been facing hundreds of foreclosures after acting as realtors just to acquire the abandoned, dwindling timeshare units. They’re tired of cleaning up the mess and simply want to revitalize tourism in the area by providing travelers with quality lodging that makes sense. “We own upwards of 300 timeshare units,” said City Manager David Cole. “This is not our business to be in. We’ve found ourselves marketing them on the city website and the scroll. We’re trying to figure out ways to move these units. The primary objective is getting them back on the tax rolls.” Now that they have a little leverage in the situation, the city is contemplating what to do with it.

The Community Wants to Get it Right.

In their most recent meeting, the city’s councilors listened to a number of testimonies by some of the resort’s owners and staff. Here, they confirmed they can’t hold dissatisfied timeshare owners responsible when they feel as though they’ve been scammed. So, they wanted to figure out how everyone could win. Even though the city of Ellsworth could have easily implemented an ordinance that held the timeshare company liable for the tax burden, they unanimously approved a plan to lease the foreclosed units back to Acadia Village in exchange for an agreed share of profits. 

While the community thinks the Resort is holding the town back, they believe Acadia Village can help them get tourists back so the bustling economy returns. “You’d still be engaging in the foreclosure process; the management of the units, however, would still be transferred over to Acadia Village,” says John Hamer, the attorney representing Ellsworth. 

He continued, “If one of the units were to be sublet, Acadia Village would keep 25 percent of the proceeds while the rest would be remitted to the city. That split would be “50/50 in the case of a sale,” he said. “This would be a long-term type of lease to see whether Acadia Village is able to do better marketing, perhaps, than the city. It’s the marketing effort that’s most important to the city.” Since city officials aren’t equipped to successfully market the weekly intervals, they’re counting on the timeshare resort to step up their game.

“If they’re able to collect enough taxes, enough money to cover all the taxes, then everyone’s happy, the taxes are paid,” said Hamer. “Unfortunately, if there’s a case where they’re not able to collect the total amount of taxes due for all the timeshare units, the managing entity would be required to make up the difference.” We’ll keep you posted on how it all plays out. But if history continues to repeat itself, the city of Ellsworth could be in a worse position than when they started. Sounds an awful lot like most fractional owners.

Default Resort Leader Embezzled Timeshare Owners for $2 Million.

Default Resort Leader Embezzled Timeshare Owners for $2 Million.

Over the years, one might say that timeshare travel has gotten a little out of control. Because regulations weren’t an initial priority, many resorts operated at their own will. Perpetual agreements not only give hospitality conglomerates total control, but it also empowers the little guy too. When greed drives the organization, consumers usually pay the price. We know because we’ve helped hundreds of embezzled timeshare owners. This was especially true at the Caribbean Service Group (CSG), starting back in 2009 when the original owner passed away. 

The timeshare company, which was located in Georgia, was responsible for managing The Woodbourne Estates Resort in Freeport, Bahamas. Since the deceased owner had no concrete plans for his exit, CSG’s operation was held up in probate. After spending the previous 6 years with the company, Katherine Tice Craig, a close employee of the late owner, took it upon herself to begin managing the day to day activities of the business. While her initiative may have drawn admiration at first, her ambition was eventually exposed.

How Resort Manager Embezzled Timeshare Owner Funds.

By early 2012, Craig, also known as Kathy Tice, had fully immersed herself in a leadership role with the Caribbean timeshare retailer. After getting rather comfortable as the head honcho, the U.S. Attorney Pak claims she began embezzling money from the business for herself. For the next 7 years, Katherine went on to steal an excess of $2 million from more than 1,000 of her employer’s customers without blinking twice.

Like many scam artists in the timeshare realm, Craig used a variety of techniques to line her pockets. “Most of these victims were elderly,” said Attorney Byung Pak. Targeting vulnerable users increased her chances. Investigators found that Craig had deposited more than $1.2 million of GSC’s profits into her own bank account and even wrote over $300K in company checks to pay off her credit cards. But the misconduct didn’t only involve simple reallocations. Craig also contacted several timeshare owners and talked them into paying cash instead of writing checks. This allowed her to skim another $450K from the business. 

“She allegedly collected and spent the fees owed to the company on gambling and trips for herself,” said Pak. Some of the purchases included large quantities of lottery tickets and numerous stops at a Biloxi, Mississippi Casino called The Beau Rivage. Rather than focusing on honoring her paying guests and managing the resort efficiently, Craig decided embezzling the money for these types of guilty pleasures was a better idea.

Covering Up the Timeshare Embezzlement.

In order to make up for the stolen money, Katherine eventually began participating in unethical attempts to cut costs. Aside from avoiding casualty insurance (a requirement of the lease agreements she sold), Craig also refused to maintain the property. After years of neglect, mother nature ran its course and the resort began to fall apart. By December of 2015, she made the decision to halt all financial support. 

At this point, The Woodbourne Estates Resort was in such bad shape that timeshare owners weren’t even allowed to visit the property anymore. But Craig continued billing them, adding excessive maintenance fees to their tabs. When owners refused to pay because availability didn’t exist, she threatened to send them to collections. In the meantime, she approved multiple transfers, continued avoiding insurance and even recruited new owners with false promises.

Craig Has Yet to Be Charged for Mail Fraud.

After Craig was arraigned on federal charges of mail fraud, she was indicted by a federal grand jury on January 7th of this year. U.S. Magistrate Judge Justin S. Arnold will oversee the case and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has also taken an interest. The inspector-in-charge, David McGinnis, had this to say about the indictment. “[We take] great pride in protecting the American public, especially our vulnerable older Americans. Those seeking to defraud and take advantage of our postal customers should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable.” 

Hopefully this type of criminal activity within the timeshare marketplace ends soon. Until then, take the time to research your rights and the companies you do business with so you can avoid scams in the timeshare industry.

$18 Million in Timeshare Resale Fees Stolen From Vacation Owners

$18 Million in Timeshare Resale Fees Stolen From Vacation Owners

If you’re a frustrated timeshare owner, then you’re probably looking for a way to get out of the contract. At the same time, it can be hard to know where to turn for relief. While competent timeshare cancellation companies exist, the public narrative of the exit industry can be deterring. Because of this, desperate vacation owners eagerly pay timeshare resale fees instead. It’s an easy decision when they don’t know the resale market doesn’t exist and they’re led to believe they can actually recoup some of their losses.

Corrine Adams, an 83 years old widow, learned this the hard way. After purchasing a Hawaiian interval with her husband nearly 30 years prior, she decided it was time to move on from the expensive purchase. Her primary reason was the increased cost of maintenance fees. Once she hadn’t been able to travel to the resort for a few years, she grew tired of the unnecessary expense and didn’t want her kids to acquire the burden.

What Convinced Her Resale Was a Viable Option?

Shortly after this realization, she was contacted by a saleswoman from a company called Pro Timeshare Resale. During the phone conversation, the reseller told Corrine that they had a bundle of buyers willing to buy her the property in Hawaii. All she had to do was make a payment that was just over $1500 to get started. From here, Pro Timeshare would engage with one of the potential buyers and process the paperwork for the sale.

Since Mrs. Adams was led to believe the transaction was that simple, she proceeded with the payment. But it wasn’t that simple at all. Over the course of two years, the senior citizen spent $10K on timeshare resale fees without even the slightest scent of a sale. At that point, she became extremely suspicious and began looking into restitution through the FTC. She eventually became a key witness in the consumer protection agency’s lawsuit against Pro Timeshare Resale in 2016.

Brian McDowell, an attorney and partner at Holland and Knight, was a major participant in the FTC’s action against the fraudulent reseller. During the trial, he acknowledged, “It is virtually impossible to sell most timeshares for the price you paid.” But Corrine had no idea they were defrauding her. “They were so persuasive; they always had someone about to sign. Every few months they’d come back saying they needed a little more time, and more money,” she said.

Phony Timeshare Resale Fees Result in Legal Settlement.

Luckily for Corrine, she wasn’t the only vacation owner paying timeshare resale fees to the phony reseller. The FTC found that thousands of disgruntled buyers had processed over $18 million dollars worth of transactions. None of which actually sold their timeshare, leading Pro Timeshare to eventually settle. The FTC began issuing limited refunds in late 2019.

Unethical Timeshare Resellers Are Prevalent Today.

Collecting vague timeshare resale fees has been a common practice for a long time. Crafty con artists know how to drag out the deception and maximize earnings. What may seem like a measly investment can turn into tens of thousands of dollars lost as the scam unfolds. We recently did a story on an Arizona realtor who lost everything chasing the sale. The BBB in St. Louis found a ton of resale deceit in Springfield, Missouri alone. “These companies know there is a vulnerable population of people to prey upon,” says the BBB’s CEO, Michelle Corey.

What seems to be the culprit is unexpected timeshare costs coupled with usability issues. Some timeshare maintenance fees in Las Vegas have even reportedly exceeded $2K in recent months. “As these properties age, the costs of maintaining them go up,” said another attorney involved in the case. The demand for relief is real. But the consumer’s ability to find it is as difficult as ever. The idea of paying a few thousand dollars in timeshare resale fees in order to walk away from annual fees is worth it to most. At least initially. 

In the end, we hope Corrine’s story helps unhappy owners avoid similar mistakes.

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