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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker gives her account on the workshop she attended at the Florida House of Representatives, regarding the Florida House Bill 435. As Sunday is St Patrick’s Day for all of our Irish friends, we couldn’t resist using the definition of Blarney in the opening graphic. After watching the recording of the Workshop, it seemed apt to use it, once you watch it for yourselves, you will understand why.

Before we go to Irene’s report some very brief news on the legal front in Spain.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint have been subject to a “cash” embargo, this is a result of a case brought by Canarian Legal Alliance for an execution of sentence on a recent case. Their senior lawyer Eva Gutierrez brought the order to the court to force Silverpoint to lodge the awarded amount with the court. This was done to ensure swift payment of the funds to the client, who will now receive 27,047.11€ plus legal fees and all legal interest.

CLA are now using this enforcement action as soon as the sentence is issued by the court. This stops any delaying tactics by the timeshare companies in making payment. It seems to be working very well.

It has also been published that the Fiscal Prosecutor in Gran Canaria, is looking into the accounts of Anfi Resorts and Anfi Sales, for the possible illegal movement of money to various accounts in order to delay the payment of funds to clients who have won cases against them.

For the Fiscal Prosecutor to be involved in this, shows that it is a serious matter, the full story can be read at the link below. Although it is in Spanish, use google and use the translate page feature.

https://m.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-timesharing-condenas-timesharing-insolvencia_punible_0_875612945.html?fbclid=IwAR0NGGZM0o8F8R8ZI3bD_Jsw5fS-HVuRSc0g1ed-lUJOS01GUZC48huO0_c

No for Irene’s report.

Florida House of Representatives

Business and Profession Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12

Florida House Bill 435

Does it restrict the rights of citizens to retain legal counsel?

By Irene Parker

March 15, 2019

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints about timeshare exit companies, in addition to reports from timeshare buyers describing unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Critics of Florida HB 435 feel if passed this bill would restrict the ability of timeshare buyers to seek legal counsel.

Due to disclosures, we will not publish the link to the recording of the Florida HB 435 workshop held March 12, but the recording can be easily found at https://thefloridachannel.org/. Search the workshop by entering 3/12/19 Business and Professions Committee. The first 1 ½ hours is about beer and spirits distribution. The timeshare workshop can be found by fast-forwarding to the session’s last hour.

A panel composed of exit company attorneys and industry attorneys answered questions from Florida state representatives, who clearly seemed on top of the issues. Panel members included:

Jason Gamel, Sr. Vice President, Legal at Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc.

Shannon Zetrouer, Outside Counsel, Reed Hein and Associates

Tiffany Kimble, Director of Underwriting, First American Title’s Vacation Ownership Services Division

Wayne Halper, Esq., in-house counsel Wesley Financial Group, LLC

K.L. “Ken” McKelvey, CPA, ARDA ROC Chairman

Boyd McAdams, from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), shed light on the number of consumer complaints filed in the last few years. Previously, our figures reported 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014. DBPR only acted on 110 of those complaints.

The approximate figures of timeshare related complaints, as I understood the figures, are:

2016        1200 complaints          600 reported misleading information

2017        1300 complaints          700 misleading information

2018        1300 complaints          700 misleading information  

2019        700 complaints            300 misleading information

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.

Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”   

Consumer attorneys matched the strength of industry attorneys. I would like to point out and dispute a few of the comments made by panel members Wyndham attorney Jason Gamel and ARDA ROC spokesperson Ken McKelvey.

Reid Hein’s legal counsel, Shannon Zetrouer, described how a buyer, typically held for hours in a high pressure timeshare sales presentation, signs a perpetual contract, often reporting that they were given misleading information.

Ms. Zetrouer argued that Florida HB 435 would infringe on a consumer’s right to seek other legal services, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or estate planning advice. She feels the bill, as currently worded, is overreaching in that it would affect timeshare buyers across the nation if they purchased in Florida.  “I specifically have concerns about House Bill 435. First, I think it will actually have a negative impact on consumers…It seems to infringe on the right of contracts and the right of companies to contract with consumers for relief that they [the consumers] are clearly seeking. Otherwise this industry wouldn’t exist,” said Zetrouer. “Simply put, if going to developers was an option for these consumers, then there would be no third party industry,” she added.

Mr. Gamel spoke of the 2012 Transfer Act that addressed disclosure, rescission, escrow and prohibited acts.

Ms. Kimball addressed the problems associated with fraudulent transfers.

Wayne Halper, Esq. described the criteria required to become a client of Wesley Financial Group, LLC. Wesley Financial receives 3,000 to 3,500 calls per week from timeshare buyers seeking relief from timeshare contracts. Of those initial contracts, only 150 to 200 per week are accepted as clients, because they must meet the criteria for fraud. Similar to the complaints Inside Timeshare receives, 100% of Wesley clients report being told the timeshare is an investment and will increase in value and 91% report the ability to rent will offset maintenance fees and provide an income stream in retirement.

Mr. Halper echoed Ms. Zetrouer’s comments, in that 99% of timeshares sold in America have a presence in Florida, and the bill as written would eliminate the right of timeshare members to seek the services of those offering exit services. Later in the discussion, Mr. Halper pointed out that being released from a timeshare contract can take up to three years. He felt it would be unfair to expect a provider not be allowed to charge for services performed until after proof of exit has been provided, proof not always provided.

ARDA ROC Chairman K. L. McKelvey said ARDA ROC represents 1.8 million Timeshare Owners. I have asked 742 families who have reached out to me, feeling they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, if they even knew what ARDA ROC stands for. Not one member could answer, yet collectively timeshare members give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year, often “opt-out” contributions.  

Mr. McKelvey described ARDA’s Responsible Exit Industry Coalition. For my timeshare, this is nothing more than media spin. I surveyed all 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Of the 64 members, 22 members responded, saying they would not accept a listing for my timeshare company, feeling restrictions the company places on points purchased on the secondary market excessive.

In response to a question asked by Representative Randy Fine (R), asking the percentage of Wyndham’s marketing costs; Mr. Gamel thought 30 to 40%.

Let’s compare this scenario to the primary housing market. The timeshare buyer sits across from a real estate agent in most states. There is an understandable assumption a buyer would think they have the same rights as a primary housing market buyer.

What would happen to the primary housing market if:

  • The Buyer paid 30 to 40% upfront in commissions,
  • The Buyer is demanded to buy the house the same day,
  • The Buyer learns licensed brokers won’t accept a listing to sell their home should they need to sell.

Committee member Representative Michael Gottlieb asked about “Adhesion” – meaning a timeshare contract cannot be changed, so why should someone need to talk to a lawyer before signing a contract, because you can’t change the contract anyway. The reason is because buyers are exhausted after an hours long high pressure sales session, signing a perpetual contract without being allowed adequate time to review copious and complicated documents. Not only attorneys, buyers are discouraged from seeking advice from a mom, dad, son or daughter. Sales agents are trained on how to defer this request, according to numerous current and former sales agents. Not being allowed 24 hours to think about a perpetual purchase, spending anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000 highlights the unfair in unfair and deceptive practices.

There have been many Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits concerning unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Former Wyndham sales agent and whistleblower Trish Williams was awarded $20 million after reporting deceptive sales practices, and a recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed November 2018 on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents and employees, working at Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort. Buyers need to beware of potential deceptive timeshare sales practices.

Buyers sign perpetual timeshare contracts accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Often existing members are sold additional points, promised maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist. The lack of a viable secondary market exacerbates the problem. Wyndham lists a viable secondary market as a risk to their stock market investors in their 10k reports.

Clearly, as Committee Chairwoman Heather Fitzenhagen stated, timeshare is a thorny issue. Let’s hope actual member voices can be heard in future sessions.   

On Tuesday, our reader data can easily address concerns expressed by Mr. McKelvey and Mr. Gamel:

1.     How rescission periods are easily dodged

2.     Why reading the contract does not always help

3.     Why the delay in reporting fraud

Related article: By Wyndham member and Marine Veteran Jim Sherwood, hardship appeal: http://insidetimeshare.com/http-insidetimeshare-com-p5114/


Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

Contact Inside Timeshare to let your voice be heard.  

Inside Timeshare did have trouble locating the recording mentioned in paragraph two of Irene’s report, so Inside timeshare has provided a direct link to it in order to assist readers, the relevant part starts at approx 1:45:50

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/3-12-19-house-business-and-professions-subcommittee/

Thank you Irene for your time in attending this workshop and writing this report, let us hope that the Florida Representatives see the need to protect consumers from the industry.

All that is left for us now is to wish you all a wonderful St Patrick’s day and to use one of their phrases

‘Bhi craic agus ceol againn’ : We had fun and music.

Join us next week for more news on the world of timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Inside Timeshares Irene Parker reports on a Lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 former Wyndham employees. This suit was filed under the Florida Private Whistleblowers Act in the Judicial District of Pinellas County, Florida Civil Division. This follows on from a previous article first published in 1 December 2016, where Whistleblowers exposed timeshare sales tactics, it was also where we reported on Trish Williams being awarded $20 million by a San Francisco jury for unfair dismissal after she exposed Wyndhams tactics. But first the latest news from the Spanish Courts.

For one British family they are nearing the end of a long road in their fight against Anfi Resorts, the Court of First Instance Number 4, in Maspalomas Gran Canaria has declared their contract null and void. The basis of this decision is the contract did not follow that stated under Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98.

The Hope family are now timeshare free and will soon be able to enjoy the money awarded, as the law firm Canarian Legal Alliance has already begun proceedings to enforce the sentence and have the money paid out as quickly as possible.

Mr & Mrs Hope

On the subject of enforcing sentence, one Norwegian family have now been awarded 49,226€ with their contract with Anfi Resorts being declared null and void, on the grounds that it did not include any tangibility and was detrimental to the consumer.

After enforcement of sentence proceeding by their lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, this money is now safely in the clients own bank account.

So contrary to many posts on various forums and claims by timeshare companies, clients are receiving payment, so congratulations to both families.

Now for today’s article.

A Lawsuit Filed on behalf of 10 Former Wyndham Employees

Filing #82214691 filed 12/17/18

Timeshare Exit Team Responds to Manifesto

Arizona Timeshare Bill to Safeguard Timeshare Buyers Opposed by Timeshare Lobbyists and Developers

By Irene Parker

February 22, 2019

A lawsuit was filed under the Florida Private Whistleblower Act (Florida Statute 448102(3)) on behalf of ten former Wyndham employees in the Judicial District of Pinellas County, Florida Civil Division against Wyndham Vacation Club. Plaintiffs include eight former sales agents. Plaintiffs allege that they objected to and refused to participate in illegal timeshare sales practices. This lawsuit parallels the former Wyndham California sales agent Trish William’s lawsuit in which a jury awarded Ms. Williams $20 million November 2016.

According to the Florida statute, “An employer may not take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee because the employee has….Objected to, or refused to participate in any activity, policy, or practice of the employer which is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.”

Florida House Bill 435, introduced by Freshman Representative Wyman Duggan seeks to protect timeshare members from unfair and deceptive sales practices perpetrated by timeshare exit companies.

The timeshare industry lobbyists and developers lump legitimate law firms and lawyers in with lawyers employing questionable business practices, with a goal to prevent members from seeking any legal counsel if they feel they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

Timeshare Accountability Group™ maintains a member need not retain a law firm or an exit company. Our Supporters answer questions about regulatory filings as the process can be daunting. However, some members do not have the time or temperament to withstand our process, which we admit is arduous.

In Manifesto Part I the author compared third party exit companies to Ponzi Schemes. This prompted a response from Timeshare Exit Team:  

“For the past seven years, as Timeshare Exit Team has grown from a local, Seattle-based company to a national brand, we have remained focused on honesty, integrity, and transparency. We exit burdened timeshare owners legitimately by facilitating transfers, voluntary deed-backs to resorts, or using attorneys to litigate against timeshare developers when necessary, and offer a 100% money-back guarantee. To date, we have successfully exited 16,000 timeshare owners. Our goal is not just to provide a valid exit for owners who find themselves with no realistic solution to get out of their timeshare, but also to transform the industry. For that reason, we are proud to be a founding member of The Coalition to Reform Timeshare. In solidarity with our Coalition partners, we are pushing for a Consumer’s Bill of Rights for timeshare owners–and would-be owners–that seeks to create a 24-hour cooling-off period prior to signing a timeshare contract, to  lengthen rescission periods to 14 days, to force full disclosure in timeshare presentations, and to give timeshare owners booking rights over the general public. Our passion is to be able to serve every single one of our clients AND to support those who wish to keep their timeshare, but just want a level playing field with the developers.”

Given Timeshare Accountability Group™ recommends not paying anyone to get out of a timeshare, we find ourselves an unlikely ally with Timeshare Exit Team as we are also a founding member of The Coalition to Reform Timeshare.

There are many timeshare exit scams, but there are also many scam timeshare sales agents. Inside Timeshare has heard from 705 families reporting allegations our ten Wyndham former employees say they were forced to employ or be “starved out” of their jobs.

In the Wyndham lawsuit, plaintiffs were employed by Wyndham’s Florida Clearwater Beach Resort which opened in 2017. Plaintiffs include eight former sales agents, a business operations coordinator and a community marketing agent. Plaintiffs say they were enticed by a supposed once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the opening sales team where they were promised yearly profits in excess of $500,000.

The allegations described in this December 2018 class action read like a broken record to Charles Thomas and me. We hear on a daily basis, identical complaints from timeshare buyers from a variety of timeshare companies. Many were existing members who trusted the company, buying more points in order to be eligible for programs that did not exist, like the ability to sell back points to the company. Timeshares have virtually no secondary market.

We also have received many complaints from timeshare buyers who said they did not realize a credit card had been opened or charged. They report being told to “fill this out so we can determine if you are eligible” when in actuality a credit card was opened and charged. Electronic signing doesn’t help as initials are stored and then, tap, tap, tapped to completion.

According to the Wyndham December 2018 complaint, allegations (edited for brevity) in violation of Florida statutes, include:  

18. Plaintiffs allege supervisors regularly instructed them to intentionally confuse and mislead buyers or “wear them down” so they would buy property.

19. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to misrepresent the price of the timeshare through the use of point charts, specifically Wyndham’s “Clearwater Beach Resort Points Chart” fraudulently showing buyers the “RCI Points Chart” which depicts substantially cheaper points – in many cases less than half the actual cost.

20. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that the timeshare was an investment.

21. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that the property was not a timeshare.

22. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently misrepresent to buyers the effect of completing a credit application. Plaintiffs were instructed to advise buyers that the credit application would only be a “soft hit” or that it was not a credit application at all.

23. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently alter the buyers’ income level on their credit application, if needed, for them to be approved for credit financing.

24. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise buyers that Wyndham would buy back their property if they were not satisfied with it.

25. Supervisors intentionally preyed upon the elderly in the use of unethical and illegal sales tactics.

26. Out-of-state residents not eligible to purchase Clearwater Beach Resort properties directed plaintiffs to fraudulently advise such buyers to purchase “Club Wyndham Access” that would give them access to other Wyndham properties, and that they could transfer their interest to Clearwater Beach Resort, even providing a form letter explaining this, knowing it was not true.                                                   

27. Potential buyers were told the property was not a timeshare, but a “vacation ownership.”

28. Supervisors routinely overstated availability due to Wyndham renting out rooms, reducing availability.

29. Supervisors directed Plaintiffs to fraudulently advise timeshare owners on their refinancing options advising existing owners that they could keep making the same monthly payments and pay off their loan by the same time, when in actuality repayment terms were simply extended.

30. Supervisors instructed Plaintiffs to do “whatever they have to do” to close deals, even if it was unlawful or unethical.

The suit also alleges unlicensed real estate agents engaged in the unlicensed practice of real estate by selling properties to buyers.  

Plaintiffs say they complained numerous times to supervisors, Human Resources, and eventually to corporate attorneys and investigators. Plaintiffs stated at least one supervisor stated he would “starve out” Plaintiffs that objected and/or complained if they did not do what he told them to do, or would fire them. Plaintiffs were constructively terminated. According to the complaint, one supervisor advised Plaintiffs to “forget everything (they) just learned” as they would never make a sale that way.

According to attorney Tom Roebig of Florin Roebig trial attorneys, representing the Plaintiffs,

“All too often corporations think that an employee who reports wrongdoing is trying to start trouble, when they’re really just trying to protect the company and other innocent victims. Unfortunately, as we can see here, all too often the employee is punished for doing the right thing.”    

Allegations from the Trish Williams lawsuit:

In the Trish Williams lawsuit, the elderly were also targeted. Allegations in the Trish Williams lawsuit include:   

1.     The effect or even existence of a credit card application;

2.     That current owners could increase their points at no cost;

3.     That Wyndham would buy back points or property in certain circumstances;

4.     That monthly payments would be reduced when they were simply being extended;

5.     That current owners were making smaller payments than they were, in an effort to persuade them to purchase more points;

Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations made this statement about unscrupulous timeshare exit companies’ sales practices:

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of.”

Having heard from 705 timeshare families, 98 active duty service members or veterans, alleging unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, we contend both sides of the timeshare sales and exits are problematic.

Arizona has proposed a bill (linked above) to safeguard timeshare buyers against practices alleged in the Wyndham lawsuit, numerous Attorneys General investigations, Better Business Bureau complaints, and other lawsuits. We will be reporting on this bill in an upcoming article.  

Thank you to the bravery and courage it takes for employees and former employees to “Hold the Powerful Accountable” and as I can personally attest – it’s not easy!  I look to Whistleblowers of America (WoA) for support because you can’t do it alone. WoA is a nonprofit that seeks justice for veterans, active duty service personnel and government workers. A veteran introduced me to WoA.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/h

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a positive or negative timeshare experience to share. We know there are honest agents who refuse to buy into the “pitching of heat” which means telling consumers anything they can think of to get a potential buyer to sign on the electronic line. They too are harmed by the actions of sales agents with questionable business practices.

Thank you Irene and to all other contributors this week, with your help we are able to give others a glimpse of what is happening in the world of timeshare.

Please use our contact page if you have any comment or questions on any of the subjects covered on Inside Timeshare.

Have a great weekend.


La Provincia: Anfi Director Declares Lawsuit Between Cazorla Brothers

Over the past couple of days Inside Timeshare has been reporting on the report by La Provincia (6 November) on the case being heard at the Court No. 1 San Bartolomé de Tirajana, between Santiago Santana Cazorla and his brother Miguel Santana Cazorla, for unfair administration of funds and another of imposition of abusive agreements.

It is alleged that Miguel authorised an unjustified payment of indemnity of 718,000€ to Arturo Ramirez for the position of “Institutional General Director”, a position that Santiago Cazorla claims Ramirez did not hold. It is claimed that it was a post created to justify the bonus in a pact instigated by the partners and Miguel Cazorla.

In his lawsuit Santiago Cazorla not only implicates his own brother but also includes some of his most trusted and closest partners such as Arturo Ramirez and including Manuel Fernández and Martin Suárez, who are also administrators of several other companies.

In testimony to the Judge, José Luis Trujillo, who was at the time these event took place the Director at Anfi, spent almost an hour in the presence of his lawyer and legal representatives explaining why this money was paid to Ramirez and what has happened to it.

José Luis Trujillo leaving the Court of San Bartelomé de Tirajana

Another aspect of the Lawsuit alleges that the “Institutional Director” had also provided professional service to Anfi Sales and Anfi Resorts during the periods of 29 March 2012 until 10 April 2018. It is alleged that he did not hold this position for which he was paid and also no contract.

Santiago Cazorla also states in his complaint that the defendants took advantage of their positions as directors of the companies, using their positions “of control of administration to effect this compensation”.

In a document presented to the judge it states that Miguel Santana Cazorla and Manuel Fernández ordered Banco Sabadell to make the transfer from Anfi Sales Accounts. Therefore the Judge has requested from Anfi Sales and Anfi Resorts minutes of the meeting when the Board of Directors agreed the compensation to Arturo Ramirez. The court has also requested the bank to provide all documentation regarding this transfer.

In the next few weeks all four defendants will be summoned before the judge, with Miguel Santana Cazorla appearing on 26 November.

Inside Timeshare will keep you updated on events as they unfold.

One thing about Anfi is they do always keep us riveted with all their (dodgy) dealings, so it doesn’t surprise us one iota that the brothers are now also at loggerheads!

We just wonder how all the members at Anfi feel about what has been going on, after all it is supposed to be their club and it is their money that is being misused. We also ask the question of those who are on the committees and have constantly supported Anfi under the Cazorla’s what they think now and will they continue to be stool pigeons for them?

PDF of the La Provincia article

La Provicia Translation

PDF of the translation

La Provincia Article Translation to English

Friday’ Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America submitted by our very own Irene Parker, but first some news from the Gran Canaria.

Canarian Legal Alliance has had what can only be called a very successful and dramatic week in the courts. At the Supreme Court in Madrid the judges once again ruled in two cases against the Tenerife timeshare operator Silverpoint. This now brings the total number of rulings by Spain’s Highest Court against the timeshare industry as a whole to a massive

There was also a High Court ruling in Tenerife against Silverpoint, plus two Courts of First Instance rulings in Gran Canaria against Anfi Del Mar. In all, clients will be receiving over 148,000€ plus legal interest.

In four cases at the Courts of First Instance, numbers 2, 4 and 5, with Anfi Resorts once again the defendants, all judges came to the same decision as per the rulings of the Supreme Court. The basis of the sentences varied from the lack of a tangible object found in the contract, floating weeks, along with the contracts being over 50 years in duration.

In all the courts have awarded these clients over 138,000€ plus legal interest, also in all seven cases the contracts have been declared null and void.

So seven very happy clients and no doubt celebrations at the offices of the lawyers.

Now for our Letter from America.

How I Made my Worst Enemy so Much Money in the Stock Market in Six Days he probably didn’t have to Work Anymore!

The Flip Side – Consumers Drowning in Debt

By Irene Parker

May 25, 2018

After a pathetically aggressive and deceptive timeshare presentation my husband and I attended in 2015, I started researching timeshare. We had owned three timeshares having bought our first two timeshares around 1984. I didn’t know how to use Facebook and knew little about Social Media. I started posting comments on places like Tripadvisor. One site responded to my post asking me to fill out a form describing my work and educational background. That seemed odd, but I responded that I had retired from Edward Jones Hawaii and had an MBA and a CFP. A few days later I received a call from one of the TheStreet editors. I almost fell over when he said TheStreet was Jim Cramer of CNBC Mad Money’s investment news service!   

My first TheStreet article was an “editor’s pick” about how I made my worst enemy so much money in six days he probably did not need to work again. Another article was about creating wealth. Given most of the 431 timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare are struggling with oppressive timeshare loan payments, credit card payments and maintenance fees, I republish my advice to graduates on how to avoid excessive debt. I published about twelve articles for TheStreet before finding my writing and advocacy home at Inside Timeshare. The education I received while working with four TheStreet editors, all possessing the patience of Job, felt like I had earned a degree in journalism.

I hope a developer or two will take the time to read about how two adversaries can come together for the good old fashioned goal of making tons of money. Shooting yourself in the foot by allowing deception to become the norm is unfair to the consumer and has devastated many families. Let’s together turn this ship around and drain the swamp of predatory and criminal sales agents. At least that is what they are if allegations hold true, according to several FBI agents I have talked to over the last year.

Doctor Khalil in my article and I had a grudging respect for each other that we weren’t even aware of. It is my hope the angry timeshare member and developer can come to a similar understanding for the good of the industry. The timeshare developer needs to wake up to the futility of allowing and encouraging sale by deception via overreliance on the oral representation clause, making the consumer sign a perpetual contract, often at a high loan interest rate, often with no secondary market. It can’t continue as it has. Social Media is here to stay.

My investment hero is Peter Lynch, former manager of Fidelity’s Magellan fund. As mentioned in my article, while sitting around waiting for my Series 7 score, I read Warren Buffett’s biography and Mr. Lynch’s book, One Up on Wall Street. Their sage advice guided my career. It was a great compliment when ValueWalk reposted my article referencing One Up on Wall Street. I may take a flyer once in a while, but I will always be a value investor at heart.  https://www.valuewalk.com/

May 22, 2016

 https://www.thestreet.com/story/13576145/1/the-markets-crashed-my-first-day-as-a-stockbroker-and-here-s-what-i-did-next.html

The consumer is not off the hook. My mother would admonish anyone who financed a luxury item like a timeshare at 12% to 18% for ten years, often relying on a 20% or higher interest rate timeshare credit card. That doesn’t make any sense, according to my mom.     

Predatory Credit Card Lending – Graduates Beware!

Heed the Cardinal Rule of Investing

How the Time Value of Money can grow $50 a month to $1 Million  

Originally published by TheStreet June 11, 2016

What does this have to do with timeshare?

Don’t finance a luxury item at 12% to 18% as this has been driving some families into foreclosure and sometimes bankruptcy. I don’t think there is a financial planner in the land who would think this is a good idea.

Timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare describing how they have ended up in a financial timeshare wasteland. Tomorrow is my 67th birthday, which has caused me to reflect on my mother, who would have reacted violently, had she learned I financed a vacation at 12% to 18% for ten years.

The importance of prudent borrowing and paying yourself first

First off, buy no vacation plan unless you are maxing out your 401K, 403B, IRA or company retirement saving plan. It’s always best to check with your accountant to determine whether a 401K or IRA is the best choice. The Roth IRA is of great benefit to younger people. But this is not an article about retirement vehicles – it’s about encouraging graduates to start early.

To become better informed, read Jim Cramer’s book, Get Rich Carefully, and then simply check yes to something, preferably 15% payroll deduction.

Here is my TheStreet article about my mom’s extraordinary forced savings plan and about how $50 a week starting early can end up over a million $. Please pass this lesson on to your upcoming graduate.

   

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13603800/1/recent-college-graduates-heed-this-cardinal-rule-of-investing-now.html

My mom drilled into me the time value of money principle every Friday night from the third grade until my high school graduation. This principle is so simple you would think it would not even need to be mentioned. Unfortunately, as an Edward Jones broker, only about one in twenty of my 1,200 client families working towards financial independence, got it. Many did not max out their 401K, 403B or self-employed retirement account.

My mother’s retirement savings method was extraordinary. Her finance education was nothing more than a bookkeeping class she took in high school; but she was a walking MBA. My father flunked 7th grade three times due to something about the school basketball team. He started and failed in six businesses, narrowly escaping a second bankruptcy. I was born into a dry cleaners, his seventh attempt at business.

The first thing my mother did was to hire an accountant. She had had it with financial mismanagement. The accountant, John Schmuck of Ferguson, Missouri, warned my mother, “Whatever you do – keep Johnny out of the books!”

On my ninth birthday, I was informed I was to start helping with the Friday payroll. Mom told me about her “background fund”. Every Friday night she would point to the checkbook balance and a number she recorded in a secret location. She would say each week, “This is our background money – and you are not to tell your father about it unless I die.” It was a lot to absorb at age nine. You see, if the dry cleaners took in $200 in a day, but had $100 in bills to pay, Mom would only record the balance as $100 so my dad would think they were broke. My Mom kept up this charade for 27 years! At age 65, my parents stopped by a Cadillac dealer. Mom pointed to a powder blue Cadillac and asked Dad, “Do you like this one Johnny?” He nodded. Mom looked at the salesman and said, “We’ll take this one.”  She wrote a check, turned to my dad and told him he could retire.

One of my brokerage clients was a cartoonist. She took this story and made it into a cartoon booklet. I handed out 2,000 copies to help build my brokerage business on the Big Island of Hawaii, currently erupting. I had just opened my brokerage office in Honoka’a. The local police officer went up and down the street warning residents not to invest money with this haole lady (haole means in Hawaiian “one who has no life” because the Hawaiians thought the white sailors were ghosts) as I would in all likelihood take their money and abscond back to the mainland. At the time, the local insurance agents were selling whole life insurance policies as an investment.

Undeterred, learning the sugar plantation had closed, and workers could not get their pension benefits, but could get Social Security disability benefits, I lobbied the ILWU. It took about a year, but they amended the plan, workers received their benefits. I began receiving calls like, “You’re the only haole we trust!”  My business flourished as $50 million in assets flowed in.

But – back to the cardinal rule of investing. The most important principle my mother taught me was – PAY YOURSELF FIRST!  As I typed payroll checks, she would point to the list of employees and sadly say, “You see these people! They live from paycheck to paycheck! Think of yourself as a light bill or a telephone bill. You would not miss paying those bills. Don’t wait until you pay your bills to see if anything is left over to save!” Pay yourself first!

If you heed my mother’s advice here is what can happen based on historical stock market performance:

Age 25 – first job at $40,000 per year – 15% of pretax earnings = $6,000

$6,000 in annual 401K contributions

(The Wow of throwing an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 a year in payroll taxes – to the IRS – and what that could have grown to if invested in a 401K convinced a lot of people to get with the program) To continue:

N = number of years (35) to work to age 60

8% – Average estimated growth rate or total return with dividends and capital gains reinvested

The estimated future value at age 60: $1,116,612.

Liquidating or receiving in dividends and capital gains 5% of portfolio income each year in retirement: $55,830 estimated annual investment income.

Most people can comfortably retire on 70% of current income (you should be earning more at age 60 than the $40,000 a year you started out with at age 25).

Sadly, it was not unusual for someone age 45 to come to my office and tell me they needed to start saving for retirement with nothing yet saved. This scenario:

Age 45 earning $40,000 = $6000 saved annually

N = 15 years until age 60 and average estimated growth rate – 8%

Future value estimate at age 65: $175,945.

5% of the $175,945 would generate an estimated $8,797 a year in income

The examples illustrate the power of the time value of money. I went through this exercise with all new clients and watched their eyes widen as my now ancient 12C HP Calculator blinked out the good or bad news. I recently showed my estate planning law firm how it works. Despite being a highly skilled law firm, my little calculator caused shock and awe. Teachers were the best savers; maybe because of the steady paycheck and their expertise in education.

Make sure to pencil in ten minutes every birthday to keep your annual scorecard by updating the numbers. There are an abundance of retirement estimators on the internet. My husband and I had kids to send to college, pitfalls and financial disasters, but overall, we kept the 15% rolling.

Thanks to our pharmaceutical bioavailability laboratory, my jumping ship to learn the ropes of Wall Street, and prudent investing, my husband and I retired at age 55. We don’t live in a palatial home or drive an expensive car, but we enjoy our comfortable lifestyle.

And you know what else? Not one of my clients ever told me they were sorry I made them save all that money.

Thank you Irene, a change from our normal theme, Next week in the Tuesday Slot we publish a story from Haley Saldana, another new contributor and her story of woe.

If you need any help or advice about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, whether is be about claiming or just getting out of your timeshare, use our contact page and we will give the correct information.

So that’s it for this week, it’s Friday and the weekend is now upon us, have fun and join us next week with more news from the world of timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

Here we go another Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker explains reporting a crime to the FBI, regarding timeshare complaints. To us in Europe this appears a little excessive, especially when we take the situation with timeshares purchased in Spain. But in the US, consumers do not seem to have the same protection as those in Europe.

Now for a round up of European news, once again Anfi have been ordered by the High Court in Las Palmas to return over 36,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest to an ex client. In this case the contract was again declared null and void, the main infringement of the timeshare law is once again the contract duration of over 50 years, or what is known as perpetuity. This point has been the subject of many rulings from the Supreme Court.

Still on the subject of Anfi, a Norwegian journalist and Anfi member is starting to ask questions about the accounts for Puerto, Monte and Gran Anfi. It would seem that they are owed huge amounts from Anfi Sales and Anfi Resorts.

At present Inside Timeshare is looking into this and will publish in the near future, suffice it to say, from the copy of the post received, it looks as though there is a substantial amount outstanding. This journalist also asks the question if this is the reason for the lack of maintenance and upkeep at the resort?

More on this subject as and when we get the confirmed information.

Amador Galeca, one of the “Fake” law firms which springs from the Litigious Abogados family has been active again, with Inside Timeshare receiving many enquiries as to if these are genuine.

Once again, these firms are not genuine law firms, they have in place a very elaborate fraud, designed to fool owners into believing they have cases at court. Search Litigious Abogados in the search box, there you will find the story going back around two years.

The unfortunate aspect of this is the frequency with which they change the names of the law firms and the websites. This makes it very difficult for the authorities to keep up on their investigations. The one thing that does help, is the fact the websites are all the same except for the names.

In the end, it is up to you to check if they are genuine before paying these companies, it is no use after you have made the bank transfer, that money is long gone. This is the reason for creating the urgency, with stories such as the director is pleading guilty and the trial is in 3 weeks, so you need to hurry if you want to be part of this claim!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America.

How to Report a Crime to the FBI

graph

By Irene Parker

January 19, 2018

There has been a change in strategy in reporting to the FBI if timeshare members feel they meet the definition of white-collar crime, financial institution fraud defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.”

I’m still recovering from the comment Anthony Davis posted January 11 in response to one of my articles. Anthony wrote that he recorded a timeshare sales presentation. Anthony is an army vet, 90% disabled after serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coincidentally, someone who works in law enforcement contacted me just after I spoke with Anthony, informing us they wanted to donate a GoPro Hero 5 Session camera. My husband and I picked up the camera and drove to Orlando to meet Anthony and Ashley. They came to Orlando because they said they were required to attend a mandatory timeshare presentation scheduled for January 13th. This was their second required new member orientation and they had to bear the air and Uber expense to travel from Tennessee to Florida for two days, just to attend the orientation. Armed with our new GoPro, we recorded an interview with Anthony and Ashley. We also recorded the recording of the orientation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI

The next morning, alarmed at what I had heard on the recording, I contacted the FBI. It took a while to explain the significance of this recording, because the FBI is not as familiar with timeshare as they are with say, terrorism, but the agent took the time to understand. At the end of our conversation agent #2222 (I did not ask permission to use his real number) concluded timeshare members need to call their local FBI field office and report orally through the FBI public access line, selecting option #4, white-collar crime. I thought he was going to dismiss me by sending members to the Attorneys General Offices! Here are the FBI field offices:

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

Previously, FBI agents had advised me to direct members to the IC3.gov portal. This is the FBI’s online complaint site. Filing at IC3.gov is similar to filing an online AG complaint. Timeshare members who feel they have been a victim of deceit and bait and switch should still file with IC3.gov, in addition to filing orally with your local FBI field office. Here’s the IC3.gov link:

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

From the FBI website (my comments are in italics)

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of Financial Institution Fraud. It is crime characterized by some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission in relation to a mortgage loan which is then relied upon by a lender. A lie that influences a bank’s decision—about whether, for example, to approve a loan, accept a reduced payoff amount, or agree to certain repayment terms—is mortgage fraud.

Inside Timeshare US has received 278 timeshare complaints from readers. Of the 278 complaints, 263 allege that what happened to them meets the definition of white collar crime, “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” Several timeshare members have reported timeshare sales agents advised them to falsify information, or the agent on their own falsified information, discovered when the member compares what they signed at the time of purchase to the document the timeshare company provides to the member after they asked for a document when pursuing a complaint.

The FBI and other entities charged with investigating mortgage fraud, particularly in the wake of the housing market collapse, have broadened the definition to include frauds targeting distressed homeowners.

This includes distressed timeshare members as a timeshare loan is considered a mortgage and is reported as a foreclosure, the same as a home mortgage foreclosure. However, timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group did sue Bluegreen and managed to get foreclosed knocked down to “charged off” on behalf of 11,000 Bluegreen members and, going forward, Bluegreen no longer reports their timeshare point “take backs” as a foreclosure. Foreclosure is the most damaging hit to a credit report, and according to Mike, timeshare companies tend to pick the most damaging category to report.  

There are two distinct areas of mortgage fraud—fraud for profit and fraud for housing.

  • Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

Timeshare member can relate to this definition! We have compiled three repeat offender summary reports. One of the reports describes highest loyalty members being up-sold to buy more points because they will be able to pay maintenance fees or sell points when no such program exists.

The FBI seeks to maximize its impact on the mortgage fraud and financial institution fraud as a whole through collaboration.

For example, the Bureau operates Financial Crimes Task Forces within several field offices throughout the country that act as force multipliers in addressing large scale financial fraud schemes. Comprised of federal, state, and local regulatory and law enforcement agencies who work together on a daily basis, these tasks forces have been an effective way to merge valuable resources of participating agencies.

By leveraging the skills, knowledge, and resources of various government agencies and private industry, the FBI and its partners are able to bring more perpetrators of fraud to justice.    

Common Mortgage Fraud Schemes (I selected those pertinent to timeshare)

  • Foreclosure rescue schemes: The perpetrators identify homeowners who are in foreclosure or at risk of defaulting on their mortgage loan and then mislead them into believing they can save their homes by transferring the deed or putting the property in the name of an investor. The perpetrators profit by selling the property to an investor or straw borrower, creating equity using a fraudulent appraisal, and stealing the seller proceeds or fees paid by the homeowners. The homeowners are sometimes told they can pay rent for at least a year and repurchase the property once their credit has been reestablished. However, the perpetrators fail to make the mortgage payments and usually the property goes into foreclosure.

The DOJ places timeshare exit scams complaints second only to debt collection complaints. Timeshare exit scams flourish when timeshare companies do not allow a secondary market. This is a 13 page DOJ report on timeshare exit scams:

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+fraud&op=Search&affiliate=justice

One new timeshare term I learned is “Viking Ship” comparing fraudulent timeshare transfers to the term used to describe how Vikings put their dead on a ship, set fire to it, and shipped it out to sea.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-hoa-collections-agent-shares-experience/

Loan modification schemes: Similar to foreclosure rescue scams, these schemes involve perpetrators purporting to assist homeowners who are delinquent in their mortgage payments and are on the verge of losing their home by offering to renegotiate the terms of the homeowners’ loan with the lender. The scammers, however, demand large fees up front and often negotiate unfavorable terms for the clients, or do not negotiate at all. Usually, the homeowners ultimately lose their homes.

Foreclosure is a guarantee, but you certainly don’t need to pay anyone to help you foreclose. These scams say foreclosure meets their promise of a guarantee!

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/mortgage-fraud

Law rights

Thank you to our FBI field offices for even listening to us as no one else is. We appreciate the efforts of Attorneys General but they are limited in their scope. Federal enforcement is needed.

If you need help with a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or contact one of these U.S. advocacy groups we endorse, feeling they are truly member supported, not influenced by industry.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

There we have it, timeshare consumers in the US now have another way of fighting back, things across the Great Lake are a little more complicated for timeshare consumers than in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article published, contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you get the best advice possible.

Have a good weekend.

weekend cat

Fast and Furious: Result Within 24 Hours!

On 27 May Canarian Legal Alliance posted another victory against Anfi Resorts, this case was heard on 25 May 2016.

 

From the initial hearing to the judgement being delivered was within a staggering 24 hours, now this is amazing for any court no matter what country. This particular family must be very happy indeed, their contract has been cancelled and the court has ordered that they be repaid 20,000€.

fast and furious

It would seem that the Supreme Court rulings are having a profound effect on the way the lower courts are now dealing with these cases. In the past it was taking so long for cases to be heard and could even take longer to be resolved, mainly due to the lengthy appeals process. This can be seen with the now famous Grimsbo v Anfi case, six years in the making, but resulting in historical Supreme Court rulings.

 

Again this contract was declared null and void due to the taking of deposits within the cooling off period, along with the illegality of floating / points systems. We now wait to see how quickly other cases similar to this will be heard and adjudicated.

 

So it is congratulations to this particular family and well done the legal team at CLA.

 

Inside Timeshare is here to give you the latest news and information on what is happening around the timeshare world. Much of it will be kept from you the members, could it be they are afraid of a mass exodus or even more litigation. Truthful information is what you the members require, yes, you may be happy with what you have, Kim & Andy are proof of that. But even they are interested in what is going on, after all it may just affect you in the future.

real news

Update: Latest Massive Win for CLA Client.

Yesterday 25 May 2016 Canarian Legal Alliance announced another massive win for one of their Norwegian Clients.

 

The court in Maspalomas Gran Canaria, used the recent Supreme Court rulings that contracts in perpetuity are illegal along with the floating week system. This court also ordered the payment of double the deposit paid within the cooling off period.

 

This is another blow for Anfi resorts as the amount is a staggering 189,000€. It is also a blow for the RDO as Anfi is a member of this organisation, they have backed Anfi in suggesting that these rulings are incorrect and that the contracts are not illegal.

anfi logordo-logo

So far since the 4 April 2016,  Anfi have been ordered to reimburse CLA clients around 661,101.32€ in respect of illegal contracts. These contracts have also been declared null and void, thereby freeing the clients from their timeshares.

 

As stated in the article published on 24 May 2016, this is just against one company, how will they be able to sustain amounts such as this at the rate the courts are ruling against them? It would seem that the prediction of the million euro mark being reached before the halfway point of the year is right on track.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=breaking+news

Congratulations to the client and the legal team at CLA for this huge victory.

 

Inside Timeshare will continue to keep you updated as the news comes in. If you require any information about your rights or need to find out about a company you have or are possibly going to deal with, contact Inside Timeshare for free advice.

ANFI CONTRACT DECLARED NULL AND VOID COURT ORDERS REFUND OF 189.000€ TO OUR CLIENTS