Today, the arena of timeshare relief is vast. This is mainly because travelers have begun to devalue timeshare ownership. But it’s also due to the fact there is now a variety of travel options to choose from. More than ever before, buyers are now looking for ways to get out of timeshare contracts. In turn, this opens the door for predatory entrepreneurs to make some fast cash. Over the past few months, we’ve covered a lot of stories that point out the level of deceit within the industry. Although some cancellation companies actually provide ethical solutions, many are fueled by greed and look to con desperate consumers. Sometimes, a timeshare exit lawyer is even tempted to go after a piece of the pie for themselves.
This was the case when the founder of Castle Law Group decided to foster his own timeshare relief program. After illegally obtaining the information of fractional owners across the country, attorney Judson Wheeler Phillips reached out to a number of current owners, claiming he had the know-how to cancel timeshare agreements. But he wasn’t exactly interested in providing them with a solution.
How the Timeshare Cancellation Lawyer Received Disbarment.
After processing 93 federal lawsuits and consumer fraud complaints against the so-called timeshare exit lawyer, the Supreme Court of Tennessee found that Phillips was actually fueling a handful of cancellation scams. He compiled user data by making financial arrangements with other companies that failed to persuade timeshare owners with their schemes. Phillips then teamed up with marketing companies to target his victims. Working with a legal office more than likely appealed to his co-conspirators. This most certainly improved their chances.
Under Castle Law Group, Phillips would charge victims an up front fee for his services. This amount is said to be around $7,500. Once he received the funds, he would split it with others involved – with cuts determined by their involvement. He would then claim to represent his victims by writing a letter to the timeshare company requesting a cease in all communication with his client. Once he collected his dues, his co-conspirators took over the rest.
Legal Representation is Different Than Guaranteed Services
On the surface, the deceit may be obvious. But Phillips’ operation wasn’t the same as most timeshare exit strategies. He was charging clients for his representation. He wasn’t necessarily making any guarantees, rather playing a legal role. This proves how powerful marketing and strategic sales language can be. Owners assumed they were relieved from their timeshare obligation but they were basically paying an amateur timeshare exit lawyer to make a cancellation requests. When their timeshare obligation remained, Phillips claimed he did what he was paid to do.
While Phillips has yet to be required to repay his victims, he has received a disbarment from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. The way he went about targeting timeshare owners was enough to strip him of his professional license for the time being. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Phillips “poses a threat of substantial harm to the public.” They disbarred him after receiving “18 disciplinary complaints and 91 additional pending disciplinary complaints” from Orange Lake, Westgate, Diamond and Berkley Resorts. The decision said that, “Mr. Phillips consented to disbarment because he could not successfully defend himself on charges alleged in a Petition for Discipline.”
Timeshare Scams, In General, Are a Growing Problem.
Orange Lake Resort’s President and CEO, Tom Nelson believes timeshare exit companies are the problem. He stated, “In most cases, these fraudulent groups charge exorbitant fees and instruct owners to stop payment on their contractual obligations, placing them in additional financial peril.” Although many timeshare companies are the one’s actually creating peril, he does have a point.
While it’s hard to tell if Phillips was really trying to help people, most timeshare scams are a lot more sophisticated than what the timeshare exit lawyer was selling. Not every cancellation service is misleading. At the same time, we can appreciate the efforts Orange Lake is making to slow criminals with bad intentions down. Nelson plans to continue aggressively pursuing “companies and lawyers that prey on consumers,” in order to protect his owners. Although he might hold a little bias towards his Horizon program, we do encourage all of our clients to exhaust all of their options with the resort first and foremost.
Phillips isn’t the only legally inclined professional claiming to be a timeshare exit lawyer. Thousands cater to disgruntled vacation owners looking to get rid of timeshare contracts. When buyers are unable to sell or rent their property, attorneys are usually seen as the next logical decision.
Hiring a Timeshare Exit Lawyer Can Be Misleading.
While most legal teams do provide competent services, many don’t have the knowledge or expertise needed for executing a proper cancellation. Besides, litigation can be quite costly. A majority of consumers can’t begin to compete with the legal teams of major timeshare organizations. Claimants can fall tens of thousands of dollars in debt before realizing they can’t even afford to proceed. Timeshare companies know how to drag out the legal process, forcing timeshare owners to fold or go broke.
The situation with Judson Wheeler Phillips isn’t the only operation being pursued by Orange Lake Resorts and other timeshare developers. They have a number of lawsuits open against misleading relief programs and timeshare exit lawyers. We can’t blame them for protecting their interests with interest. At the same time, it’s very rewarding to know that we go about things the right way, every time.