Since the 1980’s, regulatory agencies have been trying to crack down on consumer fraud in the timeshare industry. While the increasing number of exposed scams is encouraging, the lengths people go to defraud innocent consumers is disheartening. Especially when they involve vulnerable timeshare owners. The elderly have long been a target of timeshare sales operations. A declining level of discernment makes it easier to manipulate them. Former employees of major hospitality chains have even been terminated for reporting misconduct geared towards the aging demographic. But the “chasing of the buck” doesn’t stop with travel companies. 3rd party resort relief options, like those who partake in timeshare resale fraud, are becoming a big problem.
Many scam artists enter the timeshare marketplace because they know a good amount of buyers have already been misled. They also know that some of these owners are desperate to get rid of their expensive timeshare obligations once they realize it’s not for them. After struggling with the resort, many timeshare owners assume their only option is to sell the property. Even though a vast majority of timeshares have a $0 resale value, hundreds of resale companies look to take advantage of consumer desperation. Some are legitimate, most are not.
This was the case when Daniel “Wolf” Boyer hired 20 co-conspirators to develop a resale scheme that defrauded thousands of buyers across the U.S.. After stealing user information from different online sources, Boyer and his trusty team set off to persuade unhappy buyers to sell their timeshares. From late 2010 all the way through April of 2012, the resale scam was able to steal over $3.3 million, mostly from the elderly. While the Florida man (or “Wolf”) might have thought he was brilliant, his antics didn’t go unnoticed.
After following the scam and tracking Boyer, the USPIS, FBI and the Florida DACS built a case against the fraudulent operation. With the help of the Assistant U.S. Attorney, Dan Cowhig, they were able to easily prosecute those involved. To date, twenty members of the fraudulent scheme have been charged with a guilty plea. Boyer pled guilty to conspiracy and received two counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. While some of the co-conspirators await a judges decision, 6 have been sentenced and the “Wolf” will spend 63 months in federal prison. U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan also informed Boyer that his penalty would also include three years of supervised release. He also ordered him to pay restitution of $3.37 million to victims of the fraud.
How the Fraudulent Timeshare Resale Scheme Worked.
Falling victim to a scam is never on anyone’s agenda. But on the surface, many fraudulent operations seem very real. Despite there never being any “real” buyers, Boyer and his team went above and beyond to create online business “fronts” that manipulated their targets. By using fake identities, inactive companies and leasing temporary office spaces, unhappy timeshare owners viewed them as a viable solution.
Using this approach, Boyer and his co-conspirators were able to claim they had corporate offices in cities like Las Vegas even though he remained in Orlando, Florida. In order to cover their tracks, they used a number of business names including: Beneficial Business Solutions, Holiday Advertising, First Capital Financial Services Corp, Eastern Enterprises LLC, Professional Concepts LLC, TeleTeton Corp, Redline Funding LLC, Community Funding Corp, Equity Financial Services LLC, Vacation Funding Partners LP, Property People Travel, and Great West Funding Incorporated.
They also used internet phone systems to purchase local numbers. This enhanced their credibility because it made it look like they were calling from local offices. They even went as far as researching local news and weather to manipulate timeshare owners during phone calls. The product itself was a phony website with a handful of fake testimonials, press releases and stakeholders that linked to leased buildings on Google maps.
Everything seemed so promising. This goes to show how clever criminals actually are. Once the defendants were able to legitimize their business and gain consumer trust, they’d promise to sell the timeshare property. All they required was an upfront payment for half of the resale costs. This made them seem even more trustworthy because they didn’t require full payment until the job was complete. Criminal telemarketers refer to this as “the buyer’s pitch.” Once you hand them the cash, the rest is history. When it comes to timeshare resale fraud, the misconduct can drag out for a long time. Just ask Darren Kittleson, an Arizona realtor that fell for a similar scam.
Be Careful When Pursuing Timeshare Relief Options
Fraudulent operations, like Boyer’s, typically get going when stolen information, that a specific target audience believes is confidential, becomes available. Having access to this data gives scam artists the ability to easily mislead certain audiences. If you think one of your online profiles have been breached, keep your eyes peeled for potential scams. There are plenty of “wolves” in sheep’s clothing out there.
After Boyer’s case concluded, Nicholas A. Trutanich, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, had a few words to say on the matter. “Today’s sentence demonstrates law enforcement’s commitment to protecting vulnerable elder populations in Nevada. Elder fraud and exploitation can have a crippling effect on victims, and federal prosecutors will pursue financial fraudsters who exploit our most vulnerable for personal and financial gain.” Although timeshare resale fraud is concerning, it seems as though our country is doing everything they can to eliminate the problem.
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