Welcome to the first Letter from America for June, this week Irene Parker follows on from Haley Saldana’s Tuesday article, but first we look at the end of the week in Europe.
Over the past few weeks we have been issuing various warnings on some very dubious claims companies and fake law firms, we have now received some new information about one called Abogados Lopez.
In the past warnings the name of the lady on the phone was Hope Brugge, well it seems that Hope has now changed to Megan Haywood.
The pitch is the same as before, checking the details of how much they paid etc, before they file the case at court, the a day or so later the great news comes in that they have won the case and the court has awarded a substantial amount. Yes you guessed it they need to be paid to release the money.
The telephone numbers being used are:
0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga code
0034 602 654 670 which is a Spanish mobile
Another number that has been used is
0044 1291 440 500 which is a Chepstow code.
This week has also been busy with the courts, Silverpoint has been on the receiving end of yet more Supreme Court rulings, with four in one week, this makes a total of 118 against the timeshare industry as a whole.
There have also been six sentences issued in the Courts of First Instance against Anfi del Mar and Silverpoint, with the total being awarded by the courts to the clients amounting to over 409,000€ plus in most cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. The contract have also been declared null and void, leaving these client not only financially better off but timeshare free.
All these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by none other than those intrepid lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance.
Now on with this weeks Letter from America.
Diamond Resorts International Lawsuit against Castle Law
Declarations of Two Former Castle Law Employees
The Tangled Web: Castle Law Group Entities
How money was funneled from timeshare members to Castle Law
By Irene Parker
June 1, 2018
Diamond Resorts International filed a first amended complaint for damages, injunctive and other relief against Judson Phillips, Esq., Castle Law Group, P.C. and 24 other defendants in the US District Court of the Middle District of Tennessee on February 21, 2118, in an effort to untangle Defendants’ web of deceit and so as to end Defendants’ improper and legally inappropriate schemes, and in doing, not only vindicating its own rights, but also safeguarding the unsuspecting public and positively impacting the timeshare industry at large.
Timeshare developers say timeshare exit companies like Castle Law are targeting timeshare members, enticing them to get out of their timeshare contracts. Some of these exit companies charge thousands of dollars upfront, but members are held in suspense for months or years, only to learn they were not released from the timeshare contract. On the other side of the dispute, timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare, desperate to be released from timeshare contracts they never knew were perpetual, and had little or no secondary market.
This past Tuesday we published an article about Haley Saldana getting caught in the middle of a dispute between Castle Law Group and Resort Relief. Haley lost $3,495 after paying Castle Law to get her out of her Silverleaf timeshare, only to find herself foreclosed anyway. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-6/
Two former Castle Law employees, a director of business development and an attorney, relate their experiences working for Castle Law Group, PC and Castle Marketing Group, LLC in depositions filed. I reached out to both employees through Linked-In and the attorney’s law firm. They did not respond.
Over a year ago I received an email from Carly Vaughn, former public relations manager and content writer for Castle Marketing, asking if I would be interested in writing for the Castle blog. I declined the offer.
We first published an article about developer lawsuits against Castle Law and Judson Phillips August 22, 2017.
Among the twelve causes of action in the “cease and desist” letter Castle sent to developers, are those Inside Timeshare readers, asking for help in complaints against developers, would not disagree with. From the Castle “cease and desist” letter found in public filings:
- Improper and unethical high pressure sales tactics.
- Gross and deliberate misrepresentations regarding benefits of ownership.
- Gross misrepresentation regarding the ability to utilize timeshare points to cover fees associated with membership and exchanges.
- False information regarding the ease and/or ability to resell for a profit.
- False sense of urgency to purchase the same day.
A “cease and desist” letter demands all communication with the client, including collection attempts cease under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.
Declaration from an attorney who worked for Castle Law
In his declaration, the lawyer states that it became clear to him that Castle Law was not functioning within the ethical boundaries of a proper law firm. At no time was the lawyer tasked with meeting with and/or engaging clients. Rather, according to the attorney, Castle Law clients were primarily engaged through outside third-party exit timeshare companies. Only on a few occasions does the lawyer recall even speaking with a prospective client. The attorney graduated from law school in 2015 and was hired by Castle Law Group, P.C. in 2015. He worked for Castle Law until May 2017. According to the attorney’s declaration:
It was my understanding, through observations, that many prospective clients engaged the services of Castle Law without ever speaking with any attorney. Strangely, I agreed to have a rubber stamp made of my signature to be used by assistants, which made me uncomfortable.
While at Castle I was shocked to learn telephone calls were being recorded without my knowledge, whereby neither of the two parties was aware they were being recorded. I learned of this practice from Sean Austin, president of Castle Marketing, which I now know to be illegal.
I was involved in the evaluation of various cases of timeshare owners who did not have valid claims and should have been entitled to a refund of monies paid to any of the Castle entities. I reported my claims to Judson Phillips and Michael Keever. To the best of my knowledge, very few, if any, actually received a refund. (Castle Law Group and Castle Marketing were both operated by Sean Austin and Michael Keever, neither licensed to practice law)
After I left Castle, I became aware that Castle Law sent out letters to their purported clients that they never represented them. I became aware of such letters after I was forced to defend my license to practice law against four bar complaints against me. All four complaints were eventually dismissed.
This declaration was provided by the “assistant director of affiliate relations” who later served as “director of business development” for Castle Marketing Group as an independent contractor in 2015.
The director’s role was to communicate with and manage outside affiliate companies, referred to as Third Party Exit companies (TPE) who solicited timeshare owners to cancel their timeshare contracts. According to the director:
I observed that Castle Law allowed the outside affiliates to use Castle Law Group’s engagement agreement without an attorney being present or consulted. I observed that timeshare owners were being led to believe they were paying legal fees entirely to Castle Law Group, which was not true.
Initially, Castle Law Group collected all of the funds and was engaged in the practice of sharing the fees with the TPEs. Sean Austin told me that they had created Castle Marketing Group to “act as a buffer between the clients and the law firm” and to “protect the law firm” and to “get around the issue of fee splitting.”
Later Sean Austin told me Castle Law Group was not making any money, which was “not legal,” and that funds had to be pulled out of Castle Marketing Group and transferred to Castle Law group, so that it would appear as if Castle Law Group was earning revenue as part of the transaction. The TPEs kept their portion of the amounts paid for legal services and sent the rest to Castle Marketing. Castle Marketing then transferred funds to Castle Law Group and the many other business entities operated by William Michael Keever and Sean Austin (pictured above).
I observed that attorneys at Castle Law Group rarely, if ever, met with or spoke to the timeshare owners. Sean Austin told me that the staff needed to keep the timeshare owners happy as the lawyers did not have time to confer with them.
At times a year or more went by without any action taken by Castle Law Group on behalf of the timeshare owners. I witnessed that timeshare owners who persisted with their complaints, or demands to speak with an attorney, would be placed on an “escalation sheet.” Staff members would, in some instances, contact customers to calm them down and say whatever was necessary to keep them hanging on until the deadline for their money-back guarantee had expired. My job became so stressful as a result of timeshare members and TPEs demanding answers, my health was impacted and my doctor advised me to quit my job.
The funds collected from the legal fees paid to Castle Marketing Group were funneled to other business ventures owned by Sean Austin and/or William Michael Keever. These businesses included: Castle Venture Group, Worthington Galleries, God Cloud, ExxoGear, Advisant, Kryptobit, and Instant Merchant Group, among others. Sean Austin expressed to me on more than one occasion that the payroll and budget for all these companies was dependent on my work with the TPEs and the funds generated.
When I expressed my concern that “clients” would complain to the Tennessee Attorney General, Sean Austin stated that Castle Law Group was registered only in the name of attorney Judson Phillips, so Sean Austin, William Michael Keever and the staff, as non-lawyers, would be shielded from any liability or fault.
The Director left Castle Market Group in 2016.
To date Inside Timeshare has received 437 requests for assistance from timeshare members who allege they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. It is our hope a meaningful dialog will develop to clean up both sides of the timeshare sale.
Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups before paying anyone to get you out of a timeshare contract.
So that’s it, the end of another week in the world of timeshare, a week that has seen more fake companies emerging and many cases against some of the major timeshare companies being resolved in the courts.
If you require any information or have any comments on any article published, use our contact page and send us a message.
Have you been contacted by a company with a similar story to the ones published and want to know the truth, or have you found one on the internet, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to find the information you need.
Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company, it will save you a lot of heartache in the end.
Have a great weekend and join us next week for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”.