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Assurance of Discontinuance

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Sheila Brust gives us an update to her previous article “Pencil Pitch”, again edited by Irene Parker.

It would seem that Darth Vader has sent in his Imperial Stormtroopers and Inside Timeshare is under attack from the dark side, no problem, the force of the good is with us. Keep your stories coming, the truth will always prevail!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

An Update to Sheilah Brust’s Pencil Pitch

The Florida Timeshare Division told us,

“You have no Proof” and we were not allowed a rebuttal

Why is this not proof?

July 6, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Many potential timeshare buyers have watched timeshare sales agents scribble timeshare promises on a piece of paper. Buyers are not allowed to keep a copy of the “Pencil Pitch” but Sheilah Brust managed to walk out with hers.

Sheilah listened to her pencil pitch in Daytona presented by Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie. She filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) and was told the following,

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  Based on our review, it did not appear that the information provided to you by the sales agents were false and misleading. Lack of clarity could be an issue but that in itself cannot be considered a violation. We are not surely, if the sales agent had voluntarily provided the hand-written notes or you had kept them on your own.  If there are discrepancies between the notes and what was actually received in terms of points, we will address that issue.

By Sheilah Brust

My husband Thomas and I have been Diamond timeshare members since Diamond acquired our resort. Our original timeshare was purchased in 1994. Things were fine until we fell for the Pencil Pitch.   

On February, 4, 2017, we attended an update meeting at Diamond’s Daytona resort The Cove. We wanted to attend the update because Diamond had been sold to Apollo Global Management. We are Platinum Diamond members so already had more points than we needed, but wanted to hear about the changes.

Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie said that he had just returned from training in Orlando and had learned about a new program that would allow us double point usage. We patiently followed Brad’s presentation. He wrote the numbers upside down. I remarked at how he could he do that. He said practice.

We feel Diamond must not understand the Pencil Pitch or they would cancel this purchase. I have learned Diamond retained the law firm Duane Morris to write a letter implying our article was defamatory. I have submitted this article as our rebuttal. We understand the figures we were presented. We were not confused. I have an accounting background. I wrote down everything Brad Leslie said.

Here’s the pitch. We hope you post a comment expressing your interpretation.  

The actual Pencil Pitch is three pages long. Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 additional points instead of 25,000 points pictured above because we said no to 25,000 points. The numbers below reflect 65,000 points instead of 75,000.  For those not familiar with the point system, a Diamond timeshare points sells for around $4 a point.

Timeshare members incur annual maintenance fees. For Platinum members the annual maintenance fee is $.15 per point, or $8,631 for the 50,000 points we owned before the purchase of 15,000 additional points.

From the original illustration above, to offset maintenance fees, on the right side of sheet, Brad said and wrote:

  • Own 75,000 points
  • Ability to get (Double Usage) 150,000 points – 50,000 points is what would be left for travel
  • 100,000 points would be available for point redemption @ 10 per point through a Travel Reimbursement program. Brad told us to book hotels, etc., and then cancel the reservations. We would receive a reimbursement check back for $10,000. The 50,000 points tendered would not be credited back. Brad said we would be reimbursed via check in about 30 days or 72 hours if via a reloadable debit Visa card. Without the double points, this program is of no value. If we used all our 50,000 points for redemption at $.10 a point, we would receive a reimbursement check for $5,000 that would only pay $5,000 towards a $8,631 maintenance fee bill with no points left for travel.

Brad said we could use the reimbursement check to pay maintenance fees but he said he could not tell us that. He said, “It’s your money!”

Brad said we paid $8,631 in maintenance fees for 50,000 points in 2017.  Following Brad’s logic, we could eliminate $8,000 of the increased $11,252 maintenance fee (due to the purchase of 15,000 additional points), by taking advantage of this new program.

65,000 own                 $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given              2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

80,000 left                 $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

Brad said Diamond was working on a new member page for the new program that would have a split screen and that we would be able to see our newly acquired 15,000 points in the background. He said the 65,000 points “given” (Brad’s word) would also appear on a “split screen” on our member account page.

When I asked about the maintenance fees on the new 15,000 points, Brad said, “If you don’t use them you don’t pay maintenance fees on them. They will be kept in the background. If you want to use them then you will pay maintenance fees.”

I specifically asked Brad, “So if I had all 130,000 points reimbursed, they could all be redeemed for a check? Brad said, “Yes.”

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED.     

We met with Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad said Diamond was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. He said DRI was working on the split screen. He said now we would need to generate the reimbursement checks by participating in the Travel Reimbursement program. I was familiar with this program and had used it before. This was a benefit we already had as Platinum members, but only beneficial if we were to lose points. We feel Brad adulterated the Travel Reimbursement program, incorporating it into his February Pencil Pitch.  

Brad’s reply to our complaint submitted to the Florida DBPR was that 15,000 points in the background was for a Dream Vacation. He said I was confused! Dream vacation points were not in any background account. They were added to our account February 17, 2017 so these could not have been the points in question. Brad sent us a $2,621 check to reimburse us the maintenance fees on the newly purchased 15,000 points. If it wasn’t for the NEW 15,000 points, we never would have gotten a $2,621 reimbursement check for the maintenance fees. Diamond representative Brandi said sales agents are allowed to reimburse members for their first year’s maintenance fees. Dream Vacation points don’t have maintenance fees.

Of course Brad was selling a double point program. He wrote down 130,000 and called the 65,000 points “given” points. I had told him that this program better be right because we are retired and living on fixed incomes and that we had NO extra money if he was not telling us the truth.  His answer was that he hoped to rebuild our trust in Diamond. We had told him we had been duped previously, told we had to buy 4000 points to prevent our heirs from being stuck with Diamond points.

Diamond’s response to us was that the information as presented was confusing, but not illegal. This is the CLARITY promise Diamond launched in response to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an Assurance of Discontinuance.  

The CLARITY Promise: With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a DRI Hospitality agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

Summary

As a result of this upsell and lack of clarity, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and $26,000 Barclay Card balance.

Brad charged on two Barclay Cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. He had us fill out a credit card application to see if we qualified for the new program. He returned and said, “Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned we had been charged these amounts. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.  

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service taking advantage of 65,000 bonus points. You can book a lot of vacations with 50,000 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,000. You can stay a week for roughly 2500 to 5000 points. At an estimated 4000 points per week, about 12 weeks.       

What CLARITY?

According to the Federal Trade Commission Section 5

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

 

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

 

 

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/jun/17/whconsider-when-buying-time-share-vacatispot/472994/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help with a timeshare concern or would like to share your experience.   

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/

Thank you Sheila for your candid story, it just amazes us that this type of sales practice still goes on, yet the companies involved deny all responsibility for their sales agents actions. In Europe timeshare is very much on the decline, partly due to the antics in the past of unscrupulous sales reps, not all I hasten to add, I do know many who abhor the deceitful practices and are genuine in their approach to selling the product. They believe that telling the truth sells the product.

We have said this on many occasions, timeshare was and could be a good product, it may not suit everyone but sold properly and truthfully will only strengthen it and give it a future.

So we say to all timeshare companies, get your house in order, reign in your sales agents / reps, stop these types of sleazy sales presentations, take control or you will lose a product that could work.

News has just come in from Canarian Legal Alliance of this weeks court cases, on the receiving end are Anfi in Gran Canaria once known as the flagship of timeshare resorts in Europe and Silverpoint in Tenerife.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, has had NINE sentences passed against them this week. The clients will receive back all their money and have had their contracts declared null and void.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint, who are well known on these pages has lost another case in the Court of First Instance in Arona. Again the court ordered the return of all money and the contract declared null and void.

In total these 10 cases will cost these timeshare resorts over 325,112€ plus legal interest and in most cases the return of the client’s initial legal fees.

So the week ends with another “Black Cloud” hanging over the timeshare industry. Will they ever learn?

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, if you would like to share these with the rest of the timeshare world, then use our contact page and get in touch.

So that is all for this week, join us on Monday for more news and views of the timeshare world, have a great, enjoyable and safe weekend.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome once again to Friday’s Letter from America, this week is Earth to ARDA, it is an open letter to Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth, it is jointly written article by Eron Grant and Irene Parker. Inside Timeshare can also report that the US team have had three resolutions this week. Diamond  is Listening. So well done all the US volunteers.

justice2

This week has been a rather busy one for the courts in Spain, with three sentences from the Courts of First Instance, two from the High Courts and ruling number 90 from the Spanish Supreme Court.

Anfi have had three judgements against them this week two at the Court of First Instance and one at the High Court. In the first two, Court Number 3 at Maspalomas, GC found for the clients, declaring their contract with Anfi null and void. This case was highlighted in the Tuesday Slot with Irene on 6 March.

The second case, held at Court Number 4, again in Maspalomas, another Anfi member had their contract declared null and void. Ordering the return of over £15,000 plus legal interest.

In the High Court Number 5 in Las Palmas, the judge again declared an Anfi contract null and void, with the return of over £14,000 plus appeal legal fees and interest.

In the same court another timeshare company Airtours has had one of their contracts declared null and void, with the judge ordering the return of over 12,000€ plus legal interest.

At the Court of First Instance Number 4 in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol, Club la Costa has been ordered to return over £19,000 including legal fees and legal interest. The contract was also declared null and void.

In the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, another historic ruling, bringing the total number made by the Highest Court to a whopping 90!

This was against the Tenerife operation Silverpoint, again the contract was declared null and void with the return of over £10,000 plus legal fees and interest. There will be full article on this and another Supreme Court ruling next week, so keep an eye on these pages.

All these case have been brought on behalf of the clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, no doubt the clients and the lawyers will be celebrating this weekend.

cla-brochure

In other news, we had an enquiry into another company contacting Club Class members, this call was from a Madeline Swann of Gateway Services, apparently based in Telford. In the call she is telling the client that there is a payment due from the banks for being mis-sold his Club Class membership. All he needs to do is pay a certain amount by bank transfer to a Santander account to have the money released.

Haven’t we heard this one before?

On searching for this supposed company nothing came up, no company house records, nothing. So if you get a call from this Madeline Swann or anyone else saying they are from Gateway Service, do let us know. Remember, there will not be any money waiting for you from the banks or the courts.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Protest photo

This photo was posted on a Diamond sponsored member Facebook page, but removed. If you see these members at a resort near you, please send them to:

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

Earth to ARDA: WE GIVE – ARDA ROC – A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. BLUEGREEN DOES TOO

TO: Robert Clements, Lobbyist and General Counsel, Regulatory Affairs,

Howard Nusbaum, ARDA CEO,

Peter Roth, media contact

From: American Resort Development Association‘s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”

Inside Timeshare will be following Platinum Diamond members Roy and Lillian Simmons as they make their way through Vacation Ownership’s highly regulated industry. Mr. and Mrs. Simmons are worried about losing their home, up-sold at age 69 and 70 to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. They are one of 23 Diamond Platinum members alleging they were fraudulently up-sold into financial disaster. Roy and Lillian Simmons first submitted their demands to Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy Department on January 8. Tuesday’s article describes what happened:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-13/

Next, they filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau the end of February. The BBB closed their complaint in two days because a Diamond Hospitality agent from the Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department responded, “They signed a contract.” As Mr. Simmons describes on the YouTube, they were told Diamond shares were going to go up and split and they could make $3,000 to $4,000 a week renting Hawaii points because Hawaii points are so valuable. Mrs. Simmons is too devastated to have taken part in the YouTube production. Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Simmons have a daughter. On March 6, their daughter Angela filed a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov against three Diamond sales agents, one in Hawaii and two in Orlando. She also filed a complaint with the FTC. Today she will refile a complaint with the BBB again asking, “What?”

You can file a complaint with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but since companies like Diamond and Bluegreen service the timeshare loan, members don’t even know the name of the lender unless the borrower has a lower credit score. Quorum Credit Union handles the lower score people. You have to select a lender from the CFPB drop-down menu. Timeshare companies are not an option.

Onward with complaints, they will file with the Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota and Nevada Attorneys General. The Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014. Then there’s the state real estate division in Florida and Hawaii against Diamond’s Hawaii sales agent John Jessup and Florida sales agent Rafael Carerra.

If Diamond won’t help them, it’s possible the Simmons will lose not only their vacation points, but also their home, according to their daughter Angela. Angela said the $2,700 a month Diamond loan is a significant portion of their retirement income. It’s doubtful any of the filings will have an effect. Angela is surprised all of this is like a ten hour a week part time job.

Like Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, the Simmons are supported by Whistleblowers of America, an organization dedicated to seeking justice for military and government workers.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Kevin and Brenda Hopkins describe their extraordinary sales pitch:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-39/

Some Peasants Revolt

By Eron Grant and Irene Parker

Friday March 9, 2018

meeting in office

Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth,

We are educated professionals, two among thousands demanding accountability, transparency and respect. Two of 44 Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates who have listened to 326 Diamond members allege predatory sales tactics that has caused financial disaster for hundreds of families, the possible loss of Military Security Clearances, ruined vacations, ruined honeymoons, damaged credit reports, members alleging they were over promised and oversold on availability, the ability to sell points, pay maintenance fees with programs that do not exist, the ability to rent points and the ability to lower interest rates, as in the case of Active Duty Navy members Amanda and George Jones. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Lawmakers are beginning to listen, a few Attorneys Generals are listening (not Florida or Nevada), regulators are listening, and the FBI is listening. ARDA is not listening.     

Sure, there are 9 million happy timeshare owners who own and enjoy their timeshare. They might not have been affected by a life crisis, only to learn their timeshare has no secondary market, or been sold or up-sold by a deceitful bait and switch. By your own accounting, 83% of timeshare owners are happy. That leaves 1,530,000 members that are not happy. Over 900 Diamond members complained to the Arizona Attorney General’s office accusing Diamond and their sales agents of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. Complaints to our Advocacy Group have not diminished since Arizona Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance. The AOD is linked at the bottom of the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Early complainers consisted of over 1,000 British Diamond members crying foul.

DRIP Enjin: http://drip.enjin.com/

Our Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook launched by an economics professor has over 1,000 members. It’s hard to find Disney Vacation Club complaints.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Here’s what happened to Mark and Eron   

YouTube produced by Doctor and Ms. Mark Grant

Our Timeshare Nightmare of a Lifetime

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FMk_45zRzk&feature=youtu.be

My husband Mark and I have kids. We are working professionals. We said we need to travel close to home. Our Diamond sales agents said, “No problem!” Grapevine, Texas Great Wolf Lodge sounded great! It was a bait and switch….

Most people don’t pull their kids out of school to take them to Great Wolf Lodge, so we searched Friday to Monday three nights:

April 6 – 9 Family Suite (6)

19,700 DRI points required @ $.22.5 maintenance fee $ = $4,432 for three nights.

As opposed to Booking.com April 6 – 9 Family Suite

 $819.97

101.67 ($33.89 per night service fee)

106.59 (13% tax)

$1,028.23 for three nights

This is not an ARDA’s Code of Ethics concern? I ask again:    

red dress

What ARDA Code of Ethics?

The ARDA Code of Ethics was designed to encourage an honest and fair competitive landscape for the vacation ownership industry, while upholding the highest forms of integrity, dignity and propriety.

Let’s review this Code. I actually read it.

Code of Ethics: Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?

Answer:  ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics. The Code consists of not only general conduct requirements, but also specific requirements for members to adhere to when transacting with consumers, standards for disclosure of information to the public, rules regarding resort management, base guidelines for resale activities, as well as administrative procedures for interpretation and enforcement of the Code.

Note from Eron and Irene: Diamond points have no resale activity. We think this is something a consumer might like to know before signing a perpetual contract.

Question:

What can be done to a (an ARDA) member whose actions are in violation of the Code?

Answer:  If a member is determined to be in violation of the Code (of Ethics), ARDA may take the following actions:

  • Privately or Publicly Admonish the Member
  • Prepare a Letter of Censure
  • Place the Member on Probation
  • Suspend the Member from ARDA Membership
  • Terminate the Member from ARDA Membership

Note from Eron: In addition to Diamond members giving ARDA ROC a million dollars a year, Diamond President Ken Siegel sits on ARDA’s Board of Directors. Diamond members are billed $7 for a “voluntary opt-out” donation from members who in all likelihood cannot even tell you what ARDA ROC stands for. I know I had no clue what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.    

Question:  Who do I contact if I have questions about the Code?

Answer: After reviewing the provisions of the ARDA Ethics Code, if you have questions, please call 407-245-7601 and ask to speak to the ARDA Ethics Administrator, or e-mail [email protected].

Note from Eron: After waiting 4 months for a response from Julie Schwartz (not Lobbyist and General Counsel Robert Clements because he would not take my call), I’m not feeling optimistic about making a phone call to ARDA’s Ethics Administrator. The fact you have to email customer service is not a good sign.

Note from Advocate Irene: I have sent ARDA about 100 of our most grievous complaints from Diamond Resorts members, seniors in fear of losing their home, military members in fear of losing their Security Clearance, alleging they were victims of fraud for profit. Not a word other than through the timeshare grapevine, “She’s writing articles for people.” No I’m not. I edit articles submitted to Inside Timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has received 340 reader complaints, 78 since January 1. Our Diamond Advocacy Facebook page has over 1,000 members, Bluegreen members’ Facebook 800 (they are trying to keep their membership below 800).

Question: Does ARDA support the consumer?

In our opinion, only when the issue at stake is in line with developer’s wishes. One Advocacy Group banned ARDA from attending their meetings after a 2015 Florida bill was passed making it more difficult to get out of timeshare contracts due to nonmaterial errors.  

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

If the wishes diverge, lobby dollars go to work:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Question:  What does ARDA do with the information it receives from the general public regarding the potentially unethical conduct of its members?

Note from Eron: Nothing – My non-response from Julie Schwartz, ARDA-ROC Consumer Support representative serves as an example:

Answer:  ARDA does not mediate or arbitrate individual disputes between consumers and ARDA member companies. When we receive information regarding a potential violation of the Code we forward those complaints to the company for their consideration and resolution.

Note from Eron:  Who sits on your board and gives you a million dollars a year.

It is then up to the respective parties to resolve any potential dispute. Information submitted by the public may be used by ARDA to act against members when there is a consistent pattern of business practices that are in violation of the code.

Note from Eron: What about the 900 Diamond members who complained to the Arizona Attorney General? Better Business Bureau lists over 1,000 complaints.

Don and Irene Parker’s Diamond experience:

Like Eron, we purchased points for a specific location, New York City. Our daughter lives there. Like Eron, we learned it would cost approximately $8,500 in  Diamond maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at the same hotel, same time for $950 through an online booking service. I checked year round.

Next, we attended a predatory sales presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach in Orlando. I spent three decades in sales selling everything from pianos to stocks and bonds. I know a predatory sales agent when I meet one. Thoroughly disgusted, we went back to our room at Mystic Dunes, turned on the television, and saw the Queen of Versailles, a FOX News Property Man segment about Jackie and David Siegel, the owners of Westgate timeshare building their 90,000 square foot home. We were in the process of moving from Kentucky to Venice Florida, so it just seemed natural to write an article called “The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles” describing wealth out of touch with reality.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

One true benefit of owning Diamond points has been developing relationships with other professionals, over 1,000 of us, who have bonded together like a band of brothers and sisters, to fight widespread timeshare corruption we feel is so ingrained in the timeshare industry, it is accepted and considered normal, kind of like #metoo or sexual abuse, as happened at Michigan State. Look how long that went on.

At least timeshare members are finding each other now, no longer silenced and isolated. When timeshare members need a voice, they can contact Inside Timeshare. We can help.

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

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

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

 

If you need any information about this or any other article, company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or advertising in the press, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

It pays to do your homework and due diligence before engaging with any company, not all are what the say.

Have a great weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article is not from our very own Irene Parker but submitted by another contributor Kevin Hopkins and his wife Brenda Hopkins, ex-Air Force, in the light of this article and the recent news regarding the President’s son in law, Inside Timeshare asks our readers the following:

How do you feel about Apollo‘s $184 million loan to Jared Kushner, no matter the side of your political aisle, knowing there have been over 30 members of the military and law enforcement who have filed complaints similar to Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, people who have put their lives on the line for us, alleging timeshare deceit.

Scotty Black, retired Navy, currently working in law enforcement, worried about his Security Clearance. Active Duty Navy couple George and Amanda Jones, worried about their Security Clearance,  previously published articles. Terry and Roxanne Hurley, 26 years Canadian army lost their entire life savings. Does Diamond care? Does Apollo? “You signed a contract.” It doesn’t matter what the sales agent said. Too many others to mention in an introduction.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/business/jared-kushner-apollo-citigroup-loans.html

Roxane and Terry Hurley lost their entire life savings

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Samuel Melendez

http://insidetimeshare.com/nightmares-timeshare-street/

Amanda Jones

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Use our comments section to leave your thoughts, now on with Kevin’s story.

Diamond Apollo Points – An Investment Opportunity!

Think Again!

conference

March 2, 2018

By Kevin Hopkins, Retired Air Force, Electronic Warfare

And Brenda Hopkins, Prior Air Force, Avionics

Our Diamond ownership:

Liki Tiki Orlando FL, deeded week with 2250 points (4500 every odd year)

Purchase price in 2010: $10,971

Maintenance fees: $747

Our Diamond membership:

3000 Diamond points purchased Jan 15, 2017 in Orlando

Sales agent: Sofiane Mannai

Purchase price: $14,100 including $2,951 charged to a Barclay card the same day

Amount financed through Diamond Financial Services: $11,643 @ 16.99%

Maintenance fees: $960

About a month after purchasing 3000 Diamond points, we realized things were not quite right. After a year, we realized we made a bad mistake. Yes, we signed a contract. The thing is though; almost everything we were told was NOT TRUE.

What Happened to Us – Our YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAkBlfyhVYQ&feature=youtu.be

In January 2017, when we met with sales agent Sofiane Mannai at Grand Beach in Orlando, we told him that our biggest complaint about our Liki Tiki timeshare was increasing maintenance fees, over $700 for points we rarely used. Mr. Mannai had introduced himself as an Apollo Customer Service Representative. Mr. Mannai said we could lower, or even eliminate, our maintenance fees if we bought 3000 additional Diamond points. He said that with the additional points, we would become Platinum Members because we would be over 5000 points. “As Platinum members you will be able to sell back annually unused points at a rate of $.50 per point. The money can be used to pay your maintenance fees or whatever you want to do with it,” he explained.

However, Mr. Mannai wasn’t done. He went on to tell us that if we were not happy, starting January 2018, DRI will buy back our points because Apollo wants happy investors. Apollo Global Management is the private equity firm that had recently purchased Diamond. Mr. Mannai said Apollo wants Diamond members to feel that their Diamond points are more of an investment than a prepaid vacation that you may or may not use. Apollo/Diamond loves to buy back points at the price we were paying for them ($4.70) because Diamond can turn around and resell the points for $8 or $9. “It is free money for them. Also, Diamond points are going to be easier to use because Apollo is so big – travel sites are going to start using them like currency. All the major travel sites will have an option to pay for services using Diamond points instead of credit cards!” he added

We asked how much our maintenance fees would go up. “With 3000 more points, your fees would likely double, but think about it – if you sell back all 5000 of your points for $.50 a point, that is $2,500. You’ll be able to pay all of your fees and still have some leftover. Where else could you get such a good return on your investment? But you have to be at Platinum to use this program,” he further explained.

Let me backup at this point and say that we enjoyed our Liki Tiki timeshare but we rarely used it. This would provide a way for us to keep Liki Tiki and use it only if we wanted to. When we didn’t use it we could sell back points to avoid maintenance fees. This would be perfect for us.  

He gave us a timeline that Apollo would be rolling out these changes. This was done verbally of course. I remember because I wrote it down so that I would remember. I now suspect this timeline was a way to ensure that we waited past the rescission period before we complained. The “points as currency” program was scheduled to begin March, 2017, the $.50 per point buyback option June 2017, and the buy-back program January 2018. “These programs are still being implemented by Apollo, so it will not be in your paperwork,” Mr. Mannai added. He also said we were lucky to be receiving this offer now, before Apollo’s new benefits are announced, because the price will certainly go up once that happens.

hook

Yeah, we fell for it. We fell hard. We spent $14,100 for 3000 points.

Our first surprise came about a month later when the additional points showed up in our account. We were not Platinum members. We did not have one account with 5250 points. We have two accounts, the original Liki Tiki 2250 points and the additional 3000 points. The phone calls began. We learned 5000 points is not Platinum loyalty level. Platinum requires 50000 points. The accounts cannot be merged because they are vastly different, one being a deeded account and the other a US Collections account. You cannot combine the points. I have tried. Also,

  • There is no program to buy pack points at 50 cents a point
  • There is no program to buy back timeshares from unhappy owners
  • All travel sites do not accept Diamond points as currency

The only honest thing Sofiane Mannai told us was that our maintenance fees would double. They actually more than doubled.  Furthermore, there is absolutely zero resale value for Diamond points. We can’t even unload it.

We are not alone

EW

Since January 1, there have been 31 similar complaints filed by Active Duty Military, Military Veterans and members of law enforcement or retired law enforcement. Some of their stories are chilling. All of their stories should be a major concern as some of our older veterans are tricked into losing most, if not all, of their retirement income. Some Active Duty members are in, or near to being in foreclosure, affecting their Security Clearances and careers. Many of their stories can be found on insidetimeshare.com such as this one by former Navy member, Scotty Black. In it, he also links several more stories. Note that the number of complaints he refers to has gone up since his article was published.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-36/

These 31 complaints are just the ones I know about. Many more report aggressive Diamond timeshare sales tactics. If you have been reading Inside Timeshare articles, then you probably know that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich launched an investigation against Diamond Resorts in which a settlement was reached and an Assurance of Discontinuance issued.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Members who filed complaints described the same sales misrepresentations that we experienced in Jan 2017. Another class action lawsuit was filed against Diamond, this one in Nevada where Diamond’s headquarter is located.

https://www.insidethegate.com/2018/02/major-developer-sued-for-alleged-violation-of-securities-act-of-1933/

For us the hits kept coming… Since we bought the 3000 points early in 2017, we had to pay the 2017 maintenance fees. In March we got a bill for $956.

In November 2017 we received a bill for $960 for the 2018 maintenance fees on the 3000 points and of course the $747 for the timeshare bought at Liki Tiki.  

Alas, there was good news coming our way. In January 2018 I began talking to Diamond employee, Amanda Rody. She said we could finally merge our accounts.

All I had to do was purchase 2500 more points. We’re not making this up.

If I didn’t, our accounts would stay separate. I would have them FOREVER, and at least one of them would be passed on to my children along with the maintenance fees. We did not purchase more points, but we still have her offer in an email.

calling cs

So….what did we do?

I started doing a lot of research and, like I said, we are not alone.  Eventually, I found this Facebook group.

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

There are literally hundreds (983) of members in our advocacy group with similar stories. If you are reading this and have an experience with Diamond, this group is worth a look.

We have gained the interest and support of Whistleblowers of America, an organization that seeks justice for military and government employees.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

On January 27, 2018 we filed a complaint. We asked for a refund. It was immediately shot down with the typical “Sorry, you signed a contract.” The DRI Hospitality Consumer Advocates even scanned in little pieces of the contract I signed to show me what I signed. Diamond must instruct them to hide behind the contract’s fine print to side-step the true issue of sales agent misrepresentation.

A little more research and it turns out that what we experienced meets the FBI’s definition of white-collar crime, defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” The FBI has advised timeshare buyers who feel they were a victim of a bait and switch of a serious nature, like ours, to file a complaint at IC3.gov and to file a complaint orally by contacting their local FBI field office (prompt #4, then prompt #3 white-collar crimes). It is not legal for companies to use fine print to allow sales agents to make false claims. In addition to filing a complaint with the FBI, we have filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

We will file a complaint with Florida’s Attorney General since that is where we purchased, and the Nevada Attorney General since that is where Diamond’s headquarter is located. We will file a complaint with Florida Real Estate Division against Sofiane Mannai. We are looking into how to file with the Military Complaints Board because there are protections that can and should be put into place to protect our Military and Veterans from predatory sales practices.

We are military. We fight back.

support troops

Thank you Kevin and Brenda, your story is becoming a recurring theme at Inside Timeshare, on a daily basis we are receiving more and more complaints. The US team are becoming overwhelmed with similar cases, so a great big thank you to all the volunteers who work so hard to get some justice.

If you need help or advice then contact Inside Timeshare, please let us know if you are a US or European member so we can direct you to the right team.

Have you been contacted or found a company on the internet and need to know if they are genuine and will what they say, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to check them out. Remember doing your homework will keep you and your money safe.

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene: Lawsuit Filed Against Diamond Resorts

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker, as this is breaking news and an important story,  we go straight into her article and will catch up with Europe in Wednesdays publication.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Diamond Resorts

This action alleges Defendant’s sold unregistered securities in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 that requires that any securities sold in the United States be registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission

Factual Allegations of False Representations

(i) DRI points appreciate in value

(ii) DRI points can be readily sold

(iii) DRI points are a hedge against inflation

(iv) DRI points constitute an appreciating asset that DRI members can pass along to heirs.

By Irene Parker

February 13, 2018

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts. It’s not easy to make your way through a 43 page complaint, so after I digested it, I cut and pasted the complaint so I can understand it.

Inside Timeshare has received 292 Diamond Resorts complaints, 48 since the first of the year. Diamond has implemented a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to address member concerns, and has implemented a CLARITY™ program designed to promote “transparency, accountability, and respect for the customer.” Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued Diamond an Assurance of Discontinuance in 2017 after his office received hundreds of complaints from Diamond members accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The company did not admit wrongdoing.

To follow the progress of the case, Diamond members or industry observers are encouraged to join our member sponsored Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook established February 17, 2017.

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

Case 2:18-cv-00247 filed February 9, 2018 in United States District Court, District of Nevada

Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP

Albright, Stoddard Warnick & Albright

Plaintiffs:  Joseph M Dropp, Mary E Dropp, Robert Levine, Susan Levine, and Kaarina Pakka, Individually and on Behalf of All others similarly situated

v.

Diamond Resorts International, Inc.;

Diamond Resorts Holdings, LLC;

Diamond Resorts Corporation;

Diamond Resorts International Club, Inc., a/k/a “THE Club” Operating Company

Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, LLC;

Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Members Association

Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Development, LLC

Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Members Association

Apollo Management VIII, L.P.,

Apollo Global Management, LLC

Michael Flaskey

Kenneth Siegel

Excerpts from the complaint:

The lawsuit alleges almost none of the Class members are aware that they have purchased an unregistered security under the Security Act of 1933.

  1. The arbitration clause does not apply

The entire Agreement – including the arbitration clause – is void and unenforceable under federal securities law. 10

Class Action Allegations

Common questions of law and fact include, without limitation, the following:

  1. Whether the points in a U.S. Collection Members Association, the Hawaii Collection and/or THE Club constitute securities under the Securities Act;
  2. Whether DRI violated the registration provision of the Securities Act;
  3. Whether a common practice of DRI employees and/or agents to potential investors was to make representations that “points” are investments that will appreciate in value due to the efforts of DRI as set forth herein; and
  4. The nature of relief that may be granted to Plaintiffs and the Class under the Securities Act.

Similarly situated persons:

All persons who purchased “points in THE Club and membership in a Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Members Association or in the Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Members Association on or after three years prior to date filing of this complaint. Excluded from the Class are Defendants and any of their affiliate’s current and former employees, officers and directors.

  1. A “Pricing History and Location Growth for DRI” shows how the DRI points have increased and will increase in value over time.  A recent version states that between January 26, 2013 and January 1, 2017, DRI points in the U.S. Collection:  “15% Price per point increase in less than three years” with an “average” increase of 25%. Finally, the document states that points purchased “today” at $8.61 per point will be “worth” $10.76 per point in one year, and $13.45 in two years.

 

9. The Securities Act, passed in response to the stock market crash of 1929, was caused in part by issuers selling stock or other investments based on false representations, without disclosure of material information, and/or without and continuing reporting obligations.

10. Defendants are selling purchasers investment contracts, and hence securities, even if they are not explicitly described as such and even though the written contracts contradict in part the promises of the sales pitch.

Lead Plaintiffs

The Dropp Plaintiffs, New York residents, were initially owners of an unrelated timeshare purchased in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Kill Devil, North Carolina, through Gold Key Resort, subsequently acquired by Diamond Resorts on or about August 4, 2016. At an “update meeting” the Dropps were told that failure to purchase DRI points would render the Dropp’s existing timeshare membership useless or worthless.  The Dropp’s purchased points:  

8,500 U.S. Collection points purchased for $25,710 in Virginia August 6, 2016

A few hours after this purchase, they received a phone call from DRI insisting they were required to schedule an “orientation” with DRI that would take place in Las Vegas.

50,000 additional U.S. Collection points purchased for $140,000 in Las Vegas November 9, 2016

According to the complaint, a DRI salesperson took Plaintiffs to a private office, and made, inter alia (among other things), the following representations if they purchased DRI points:

  • He described DRI points as an investment.
  • He stated the Dropps would own an interest in real property.
  • He said that these additional points in DRI, plus the 8,500 points already owned, would be worth approximately $700,000 of “equity.”
  • He said that the value of the points would increase over time due to the improvements and updates that DRI continuously made to their properties.
  • He indicated that the points (and the “properties”) should be added to the the Dropp’s wills and could be bequeathed to their children and grandchildren.
  • He stated that the points could be sold for a profit in the future.
  • He informed the Dropps that they could use their DRI credit card for purchases and earn (wholly separate) points, which could be applied to their maintenance fees. Contrary to the DRI salesperson’s representations, in no way do purchases made on the DRI credit card offset or absolve the Dropp’s obligation to pay their annual maintenance fees.  

The Levine Plaintiffs, California residents

The Levines had acquired 35,000 US Collection points by 2016.

Purchased 35,000 Hawaii Collection points for $84,650 in Kona, Hawaii October 25, 2016

A DRI sales agent represented to the Levine Plaintiffs that:

  • They should convert all of Susan Levine’s points in the U.S. Collection to the Hawaii Collection because points in the Hawaii Collection would appreciate faster than points in the U.S. Collection due to the fact that there is limited real estate in Hawaii, causing real estate values to continue to rise.
  • Their points could be passed down to heirs and heirs could sell points at a profit.
  • They would have to purchase more points to convert their U.S. Collection points to Hawaii Collection points.
  • If they purchased points in the Hawaii Collection immediately, they would purchase at a “low price” because the price per point was steadily increasing.

Purchased 25,000 U.S. Collection points for $71,250 in Miami May 11, 2017

A DRI sales agent represented to them:

  • Points in the U.S. Collection are actually more valuable than points in the Hawaii Collection because the U.S. Collection requires the payment of lower maintenance fees.
  • Points purchased in the U.S. Collection are steadily increasing in value and could be sold at a profit in the future.
  • However, in order to convert their points in the Hawaii Collection to points in the U.S. Collection, they would need to purchase additional points in the U.S. Collection.

Purchased 50,000 U.S. Collection points for $144,000 in Las Vegas at Polo Towers July 11, 2017

A DRI sales agent represented to them:

  • DRI was implementing a new “Legacy Program” designed to operate as an estate planning device beginning January 2018. Through the Legacy Program, DRI itself would sell up to 20,000 of the Levine’s points at a price of $8.79 per point, generating a total sale price of $176,000, minus an estimated escrow fee. The profit would be passed along to the Levines, and they would not have to do anything other than contact DRI to commence the selling of points. However, in order to participate in the Legacy Program, the Levines would have to purchase 50,000 additional appoints in the U.S. Collection.
  • If the Levines or their heirs wished to sell all of their points in the future, DRI would “handle” the sale and sell the points at a price of $8.79 per point for a total amount of $1,230,000 minus closing costs.
  • Additionally, if the Levines purchased 50,000 additional points in the U.S. Collections that day, they could covert up to 80,000 of the DRI points to a credit on this Diamond credit card and could use that credit to pay their annual maintenance fees.
  • Again, the Levines were told that prices per point in the U.S. Collection were constantly increasing and they had to purchase points that day in order to reap the benefits of this investment.

When the Levines attempted to sell points, they were informed that no such program existed, and that DRI would not make any attempts to sell points.  In addition, no program existed by which the Levines could convert some of their points to a credit card and sue that credit to pay their maintenance fees.

The Pakka Plaintiff, original Sunterra owners, converted to 30,000 U.S. Collection points.  

Purchased 50,000 Hawaii points for $175,356 in Maui on November 16, 2016

A DRI salesperson represented to Plaintiff Pakka that:

  • DRI points were an “investment” that would increase in value over time. Plaintiff Pakka was provided with a “Pricing History and Location Growth for Diamond Resorts International” document which projects how much value the points will gain over time.
  • The value of her points “can only go up.”
  • She would have “no problem” selling her points.
  1. Diamond is in the business of selling “points”, which are marketed to prospective purchasers as an investment which will appreciate in value and can be easily resold. Diamond sells points to new point purchasers, as well as existing owners, in person, at sales centers in several Diamond resorts throughout the United States.
  2. Prior to the 60 to 90 minutes sales presentation, no contract or other official DRI document describing the terms of the point investment is provided to the prospective purchasers until the time of closing.
  3. Vacation counselors’ sales presentation exceed 90 minutes and often last five to six hours in length or longer. Moreover, DRI tells prospective purchasers that they will forfeit their benefits if they leave the sales presentation before the respective sales people agree that the presentation is over. Prospective purchaser are not permitted to take any contract, information sheets, Purchase and Security Agreements, Credit Sales Contracts, notes, or other written materials with them off premises prior to closing, nor are prospective purchasers given time to consult with their own advisors, attorney, or any other person during the sales presentation.
  4. DRI pitches its points as an investment that will appreciate in value due to continuing improvements made by Diamond in the quality and number of its resort and hotel properties, the general appreciation of real estate in the future and the managerial skill that DRI provides in operating the properties. The unwitting targets are told that by purchasing points “now” the purchasers will receive a discounted purchase price that is only available on the day of the sales presentation; they are investing in their future; their points will increase in value; they can use points to pay annual maintenance fees, they can bequeath the points to their heirs as an inheritance and they can sell their points – at a profit – at any time. Thus, these points are actually investment contracts and therefore securities, under the United States securities laws.
  5. Once the purchasers agrees to purchase points, they are individually shepherded to a sales center “quality control” person, whose job it is to obtain the purchaser’s signature on a lengthy, densely worded sales contract (the PSA) and to instruct the purchaser to initial numerous items on a lengthy information sheet. (Often the initials are generated electronically by the sales people for the purchasers’ “convenience”).  The closing documents contradict parts of what the prospective purchasers are told and/or shown during the sales presentations.
  6. Points can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the purchases are often financed by DRI at credit card interest rates. Maintenance fees have risen at a rate far higher and faster than ordinary inflation despite the economies of scale that DRI has in place to manage its properties.  Existing point purchasers are often induced to purchase additional points in order to reach “preferred” thresholds. DRI tells these point purchaser or members that if they buy more points, the DRI member will no longer be required to pay “maintenance” fees. By way of example, DRI investors are told that by becoming platinum members (50,000 point owners) the investors may redeem their points at the rate of 30 cents each to pay for maintenance fees. Since maintenance fees are currently approximately 18 cents each, the DRI investor is told that he or she can actually profit “off the spread” by purchasing more points. However, when DRI investors try to redeem points, they discover that there is no such program in place.
  7. Sales pitches regarding the investment value of the points are false. DRI points do not increase in value, there is no viable secondary market for them, and DRI severely restricts the resale of points. Moreover, DRI contracts or PSA last in perpetuity.

The amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, excluding interest and costs.

Business Model

VOI Vacation Ownership Interest Points

DRI does not refer to itself as a timeshare company

Nevada law protects timeshare owners of traditional timeshare that were fixed weeks, by prohibiting timeshare companies from selling more than 365 use-days in any particular property in any particular year.

  1. Investor-members purchasing points in Nevada are provided a form stating that the DRI salesperson is licensed real estate agent who has a fiduciary duty to disclose all facts material to the transaction, DRI points are in no way tied to the value of any real estate.
  2. The Convoluted Relationship between DRI, the Club, and the U.S. and Hawaii Collections
  3. The investor-member has no direct ownership interest in any real property. The real property is owned by or held by the trust, for the benefit of a Home Owners Association, in which the investor is a member solely by virtue of his or her ownership of points.
  4. DRI controls the votes electing the boards of directors for each Association. The board of every Association has hired DRI to provide management services for the Association – services for which DRI receives substantial fees.

III Points have no Intrinsic Value

IV The Onerous, Ongoing Cost of DRI Points and its Relationship to DRI’s Business Model

  1. DRI collects a property “management fee” of 10-15% per year of the costs of operating any resort in a Diamond Collection.
  2. Between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2015, DRI financed 74.5% of all its Membership sales. According to the restated financial statements, in the DRI 10k, DRI sold $624,283,000 of vacation interests in 2015.
  3. DRI relies upon a $100 million loan sale facility with Quorum Federal Credit Union.  “In the past, we have sold or securitized a substantial portion of the consumer loans we originated from our consumers.”4
  4. Unlike an interest rate for a home mortgage, affordability measures like debt to income ratios do not apply.
  5. In 2015 DRI sent IRS Form 1098 to investors setting forth the amount of mortgage interest (which is generally deductible) paid in a particular year.

IV The High-Pressure Sales Process

  1. 61 sales centers around the world, with a full in-house sales and marketing team at 49 locations, including Polo Towers.
  2. “Mini Vacation” packages lure prospective investors. If the target fails to attend the sales presentation, or leaves before the presentation has completed, the individual is told that he or she is responsible for paying the cost of the entire package.
  3. Points are being sold to them at a discount, so that they will have “equity” because they own interests that are worth more than the purchase price.

B DRI Salespeople State that there is a market for points, and DRI will help investor-members find buyers for their points.  

  1. DRI salespeople represent that they will help an investor-member sell their points which contradicts THE Club “Legal Documents” which state that “THE Club Operating Company has no obligation to assist a Member with the resale, lease or rental of his or her Qualifying Interest.”
  2. Timeshare Exit companies advise investor-members to simply stop making payments on their maintenance fees and/or loan. DRI then terminates the membership, recaptures the points (as recycled inventory) and then resells to new purchasers. The net result is that the purchasers lose their entire investment.

V Terms of the DRI Purchase and Security Agreements

A. The Member-Investor’s Right to Rescind the Agreement is Illusory

Click on the PDF file below to see the full document:

Complaint (JT Demanded) 2 9 18 A Filed #1

This is certainly a major story and Irene will be keeping us posted on any further news and developments.

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene, as you will see from her article this week there is certainly a lot going on across the Great Lake. For our US readers there is some very interesting information, it would seem that Inside Timeshare is certainly making an impact on timeshare consumers in the US.

On the European front, yesterday’s article regarding Anfi members complaints regarding availability, the article had a plethora of hits and likes on the associated Facebook page within the first hour. It also seems as though this topic hit home with our US readers as there were many from across the pond.

Yesterday we also had the first court ruling of the week, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Puerto Calma, declaring the contract null and void. The client in this case will be returned 16,000€ which is the purchase price, along with 3,600€ as double the deposit paid within the mandatory cooling off period. The court also awarded legal interest.

We will be keeping an eye on any latest rulings that come in and report them here, but now on with this weeks article by Irene Parker.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Proposed Committees and Support Groups

Volunt

January 23, 2018

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare is approaching 300 timeshare reader responses, responding to members asking for assistance with their timeshare concerns since we began counting late 2016. There is a need to scale up Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as we now have 44 core advocates dedicated to improving the timeshare sales process by working together as teams. We hope timeshare developers will acknowledge there are problems and work with us, to not only stop predatory backend “get you out of your timeshare” scams, but address the problem on the front end of the sale as well. Numerous calls to the FBI have been made, and they have encouraged timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, to contact their local FBI Field Office public access line to file orally, in addition to filing online at IC3.gov.

Diamond Resorts has taken the lead by launching a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department dedicated to helping timeshare members from day one if a member has any concerns about their membership or their purchase. They have also introduced CLARITY, a program designed to enhance accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

Inside Timeshare has received complaints directed against four major timeshare companies. If timeshare developers and ARDA would take the time to read the following Better Business Bureau notations of “Government Action” and “Pattern of Complaints”, it is unreasonable to keep the blinders on by claiming there are no problems with the secondary market because sales centers are forever sales centers, and members should not expect value back for their timeshare because it is a “right to use” program. That would be fine were it not for the perpetual contract, often sold by false promises made by sales agents who know there is little chance of enforcement, as there is no federal enforcement, and state Attorneys General are limited in scope.

BBB warnings for Wyndham, Diamond Resorts, Bluegreen, and Vacation Village

Wyndham

Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.

Government Action

The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.

Wisconsin – May 27, 2015 Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. entered into a Consent Judgment with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (Case No. 15CX5). The Consent Judgment to settle allegations that Wyndham engaged in the following acts or practices in the State of Wisconsin:

 

  1. Delivering a timeshare disclosure statement that fails to include all statements required by Wisconsin Statute Sec. in a format that can be immediately read and retained by the purchaser.
  2. Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
  3. Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
  4. Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
  5. Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
  6. Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
  7. Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
  8. Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
  9. Failing to inform the individual of the prize that has been awarded him or her, and then giving the individual the prize or another selected item, before beginning a sales presentation.

Wyndham consented to the Stipulation and Consent Judgment to facilitate a settlement and avoid the additional expense, delay and uncertainty of litigation. Wyndham does not admit that it has violated any laws of the state of Wisconsin.

Pattern of Complaints

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent was awarded $20 million by a jury alleging predatory practices.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties canceling vacation packages booked through Bluegreen Corporation. Consumers claim, although Bluegreen Corporation has a cancel within 30 days policy, their requests for refunds for canceled trips are denied. Other consumers feel they are victims of deceptive sales practices. Consumers claim resorts are never available when they contact Bluegreen Corporation. While yet other consumers claim the “free” vacation Bluegreen Corporation offers is not free and involve fees they were not made aware of.

Diamond Resorts:

On December 23, 2016, the Arizona Attorney General announced that the State of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with Diamond Resorts. The Assurance of Discontinuance requires the company to pay the State of Arizona a total of $800,000, of which $650,000 is for consumer restitution and $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs. The assurance also includes a Relinquishment Remedy Program, which requires the company to allow qualifying consumers to return their timeshares with no further obligations.

Many of the hundreds of complaints received by the State of Arizona claim the company used deceptive sales practices and made numerous oral misrepresentations during their presentations. Some of the misrepresentations regard:

  • Annual increases in maintenance fees;
  • Membership resale and buy-back programs;
  • Timeshare membership resale market;
  • Ability to rent timeshare vacations; and
  • Discounts on other travel needs.

The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company employees’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F

BBB files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practices issues. Specifically, several complainants have alleged that information provided during sales presentations does not match the terms and conditions in the written contracts that they are asked to enter if they agree to make a purchase following a timeshare presentation.

On March 23, 2017 BBB sent correspondence to Village Resorts requesting their voluntary cooperation in providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.

As of May 12, 2017 BBB has not received a response from Village Resorts BBB will continue to monitor the complaints for Village Resorts and update the review as needed

So where do we go from here?

TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan

January 21, 2018

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

We are grateful to our Inside Timeshare readers and timeshare members who have reported their allegations of predatory and criminal timeshare sales and marketing. Due to the volume of timeshare complaints received, there is a need for Timeshare Advocacy Groups™ to restructure, as we are experiencing normal and expected growing pains.  

Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:

  1. Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
  2. Change timeshare developer practices to allow those alleging they were defrauded to be made whole again, by not hiding behind the fine print, but to listen and learn. The enemy is not your customer. The enemy is your predatory sales agent.
  3. Reach out to military Facebook pages and websites to warn members of the military and law enforcement, due to the alarming number of complaints from law enforcement officers and all branches of the armed forces, alleging they were white-collar crime victims.  One Marine lost his air unit command and three are worried about losing their security clearance.

Anthony and Ashley Davis recorded their predatory sales presentation, which has been provided to law enforcement and regulatory authorities. This is our January 13, 2018 interview with Anthony and Ashley.

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group needs sub committees or teams that work independently, coordinating with a central committee. Listed below are nine proposed teams and team leaders, based on their expertise and past willingness to serve.

Please let us know if you are willing to be become involved. Those alleging they have been victimized include doctors, lawyers, professors, law enforcement, the military, even a member who worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison, and many others.    

Proposed Teams

44 Core Advocates

Our Core Advocates are members or former members of Wyndham, Hyatt, Bluegreen, Diamond, Vacation Village  

Reporting: Irene (4 members)

Media/Social Media: Gay Hart-Brewer (22)

State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)

Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)

Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)

Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)

Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)

Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)

California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)

Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks

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/

Advocacy team

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member supported, not industry influenced, Facebook or website.

Thank you Irene and all those who helped in this article, especially the legals who ensure that they are legally accurate.

If you require any further information on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

 

Friday’s Letter from America: End of Year Review

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.

Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.

Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.

Another firm that was the subject of our attentions was Keys Concierge, another credits based lifestyle company. It turned out that the director was one Franz Marcus Deutsch, an old associate of Mark Cushway of Silverpoint. In fact this new company was the latest product which would be peddled by Silverpoint, soon to change their name to Signallia Marketing Distribution SA.

While we are on the subject of Silverpoint, It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare. Hence the product Keys Concierge, which does not appear to fall into the realms of timeshare laws.

This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?

tribunal supremo

Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.

Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.

February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s “Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.

Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the AnfiTauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.

This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.

Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.

Another story we have been following is that of Los Claveles in Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.

There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.

In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.

This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.

This same month also saw a very big shake up in timeshare, TATOC, (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees). This was run by one Harry Taylor, who was very much a mouthpiece for the industry rather than those who his organisation purported to represent.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor for $30,000 Published May 2017

After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!

There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.

But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.

On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.

There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.

CLA Logo

Now for the year from a US perspective.

What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what

I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016

2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

By Irene Parker

December 29, 2017

Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.  

Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.  

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

Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.

We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.

April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.

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

I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.

Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016

2017

Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:

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

The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and  solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.

Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?

conference

 Westgate Update 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegel was seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.  

trump

Here is King David’s house

https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/03/09/the-queen-of-versailles-jackie-siegel-i-may-want-a.html

But back in 2016

“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is investigating Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Wyndham $20 Million

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneiderman managed to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.  

Back in 2016  

Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

 Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.  

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts Update: A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.  

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

holI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

⦁ A legitimate secondary market

⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling

⦁ Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.

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/

So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.

Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.

 

Money Vs Morals

A Fraudulent Timeshare Sale can pose a National Security Threat

One Marine sacrifices, not only his money and his security clearance, but also his air unit command, as a result of believing a timeshare sales agent.

Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, former Marine Corp pilot and investment banking and capital market underwriter, was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm.   

http://www.navy.mil/navybio_ldr.asp?id=1001

NNSA

December 27, 2017

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare received an alarming response in response to last week’s article about Samuel Melendez. Mr. Melendez spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, working with soldiers and colleges to teach them chemical, biological and nuclear defense. A Diamond Platinum member, he alleges he and his wife Delores were up-sold by deceit and bait and switch by Diamond Resorts top selling sales agent Rick Casper at DRI’s Polo Towers resort.

Inside Timeshare has been informed one Marine lost more than his money and security clearance. He lost his air unit command, as a consequence of believing a timeshare sales agent. He was forced into foreclosure which jeopardized his security clearance. We will not name the Marine who lost his air unit command, or the timeshare company, because Inside Timeshare has received reports directed against four timeshare companies offering members of our armed forces deals like the ability to rent for a profit, the ability to easily sell vacation points, or buy vacation points at a special military discount price that does not exist. Fifteen active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel allege they were sold by deceit.

Marine

Former Marine Jeff Diehl describes how his Vacation Village sales agent over promised the income that could be generated from renting his week.

Jeff Diehl

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-30/

Jeff expressed outrage after hearing a fellow Marine lost his command post due to predatory timeshare sales. He sees such tactics as a threat to our national security. “It would be easy for anyone, seeking to do our country harm, to get hired to sell vacation points in an effort to remove an armed service member from their command post,” said Jeff. Jeff is encouraging service members to write to the Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer and Commandant of the Marines Robert B. Neller, as well as other directors of our armed forces.

I fear Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer, a former top venture capitalist, may have conflicting feelings about how Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo Global Management, achieve their sales target. Apollo is the third largest private equity company. Secretary of the Navy Spencer is a former Marine Corp pilot and a former investment banking and capital market underwriter. He was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm. Mr. Spencer was sworn in August, 2017. Apollo manages Diamond as a fund of funds.  

Our fifteen Timeshare Advocacy Group™ military and law enforcement members have mobilized as a unit of armed forces to put an end to timeshare’s predatory sales and marketing targeting the military. Jeff, a retired Marine and disabled, is the unit commander. All fifteen allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. Four are worried about losing their security clearance. Four are disabled.

https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2017/11/242nd-marine-corps-birthday-message-commandant-marine-corps

Given dismal regulatory enforcement, we fear the only court open to any timeshare buyer alleging deceit is the court of public opinion, so in addition to 15 members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines, alleging they were victimized by Vacation Village, Bluegreen, Wyndham and Diamond timeshare sales agents, four members of our media outreach committee will assist our military in an effort to reach mainstream media.

Diamond Resorts is offering free passes to the military and to first responders for their upcoming invitational golf tournament to be held in Orlando January 12 – 14. Model and golf pro Blair O’Neal is featured.  

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/12/military-first-responders-to-receive-complimentary-tickets-to-third-annual-diamond-resorts-invitational/

USN

Navy computer technicians Amanda and George Jones are also worried about their Navy security clearances. Amanda and George say they were told by two Diamond sales agents, at two different locations, there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. Banks will not finance timeshares. They too could be forced into foreclosure and lose their security clearance, unable to afford the 18% timeshare loan interest rate.

Amanda and George Jones were featured in last week’s article. Mary Bowling, former #2 top selling Diamond Resorts sales agent, describes in a lawsuit, how the deceptive “price freeze” works.

Amanda and George Jones

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Here is the “price freeze” script

Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court Page 10 of complaint

#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.

#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.

#48 the sales agent has customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.

#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.

#50 (In bold) because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.

#51 (In bold) the price given is the real price planned from the outset.

#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today

#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!

#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”

George and Amanda Jones “step in”

We went to an orientation in Orlando presented by DRI sales agent Jonathan Pineda at DRI’s Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017. (This is the second complaint Inside Timeshare has received from our readers directed against Mr. Pineda) We ended up purchasing an additional 4000 points for $15,732. Our loan balance $13,271.16 is financed at 18.6794%. Jonathan (like our first Virginia DRI sale agent), said both loans could be refinanced and combined by companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. He said we would have to wait until we made our first payment (long after the contract rescission period). When we asked for a company name, Jonathan said we could google it.  

We were told we were buying our second purchase in Orlando at a price point that was almost unheard of and was not being offered to any new Diamond customers right now. “I can’t believe your first sales agent didn’t tell you about this price from the first purchase!” Jonathan said.  If we did not buy that day we would lose out and would go from $2.85 per point to $10 from that day on. He said not to go to any future promotional events because it would change our price point. Jonathan said parents had died and the children did not want the points so DRI was reselling at this low price.

Jonathan also said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points.

USArmy

Samuel Melendez, Army veteran

http://insidetimeshare.com/nightmares-timeshare-street/

Mr. Melendez is the eighth Rick Casper Platinum DRI member to reach out to Inside Timeshare, and the only complainant not to have been resolved. The Melendez complaint was dismissed. Mr. Melendez said he received an email from their DRI Consumer Advocate hospitality agent, with the family’s initials on their contract, confirming the oral representation clause.

Platinum members are Diamond’s most loyal customers. They are unsuspecting because they have dealt with the company for years without major complaints until their encounter with Rick Casper or others with questionable business practices.

We’re not sure if Rick Casper is still with DRI. Like Elvis, some members report Rick Casper and Wadji Kassas (another name frequently mentioned) are no longer with the company, while others tell us Casper and Kassas are still working at DRI. I can imagine them holed up in a special Platinum bunker.

Inside Timeshare also published the story of army veteran Terry Carter, diagnosed with blood cancer. Terry lived next to a burn pit in Iraqi. Bluegreen offered this family a loan cancellation but no refund. Terry says he will not give up without a fight. Sold in a group presentation, promised the ability to sell their timeshare at a profit should they need to sell, the family is demanding a 50% refund. Bluegreen’s defense is the family used the timeshare for 19 days since making their first purchase in 2013. They stopped making loan payments in July.

Terry Carter http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-2/

One of the worst upsell stories was reported to Inside Timeshare by Karen Vartan, another disabled vet. She was contacted by DRI marketing in San Diego. As a Platinum member for more than five years, Karen was hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Mystic Dune Sales Team in Arlington, Virginia. Karen says she was told if she purchased 25,000 additional DRI points, added to her exiting 57,000 points she would have 82,000. But if purchased today only, double points – 165,000 – allowing Karen to be able to pay her maintenance fees with points left over to travel. The program does not exist. Diamond’s response was again to provide Karen with her initials on her contract acknowledging that Karen “did not rely on any oral representation to make her purchase.”

Canada is also represented in our military victim report  

Canada

Roxanne and Terry Hurley

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Inside Timeshare directed Roxanne and Terry Hurley to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department over a year ago after the family reported they lost their entire life savings to DRI. Chalk it up to a bad decision, but having served in the Canadian army their entire career, they have nothing left. DRI did provide some help. We are not lawyers, so are not privy to the terms, but the family thought it would be alright, not violating the non-disclosure agreement, to admit they are still DRI members. Roxanne’s mom’s condition has worsened since she reached out to us. With no secondary market, their savings wiped out, their dream vacation future turned into a financial tragedy.

homeland

Law Enforcement is also at risk

Lela Renea is a Florida detective trying to work with Bluegreen to resolve her complaint.  Inside Timeshare, back in July, published Detective Renea’s article describing how she feels she was a victim of a Bluegreen bait and switch. We will not use the word “alleged” because if anyone knows they were baited and switched, it’s a detective.  

Detective Renea  http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Scotty Black, MS Criminal Justice, also works in law enforcement. Inside Timeshare will publish Scotty’s battle with Diamond Resorts in an upcoming article. Detective Renea and Scotty could also lose their security clearances if forced into foreclosure.

There are others who have moved on. We will not republish their articles or mention their names, as they have signed a mutual release agreement, agreeing not to say anything bad about Diamond Resorts.

When will this industry wake up? Never, I fear if there is not some federal enforcement. Members cannot even file a complaint effectively with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the timeshare company finances the loan because, as not the actual lender, there is no drop down CFPB menu choice to select a timeshare company. Only banks are listed.

monay v morals

According to FBI agents I spoke with, and several attorneys, hiding behind the oral representation clause is not legal but continues as a hamster wheel because there is no federal timeshare enforcement. In our opinion, state enforcement is, in some states, influenced by powerful lobby dollars. With so little enforcement, unscrupulous sales agents have little to fear. Lie to make the sale, force the member into foreclosure, take back the points, resell for full value to the next consumer.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has dismissed all Diamond Resorts complaints, submitted by members who contacted Inside Timeshare, despite Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issuing an against DRI accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The AZ AG office received, according to a source, 400 complaints, and an additional 500 complaints after the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

We do not dispute there are many timeshare members, having not yet experienced a life crisis, who use and enjoy their vacation points. We know there are honest timeshare companies, like Disney Vacation Club, and honest timeshare sales agents, but it would take another lengthy article to list the lawsuits that have evolved, like the Wyndham whistleblower Trish Williams $20 million jury award describing TAFT days – tell them any blank think on slow sales days.

At least timeshare members, those who find Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below, are not silenced and isolated.

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

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

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

help

          

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we decided to run with this particular article following the news from Europe on Monday that Diamond was closing its sales offices in Europe. Obviously this will have a great impact on the many employees, who are now out of work and will need to find jobs in an ever decreasing sales industry.

As usual before we go on with our article, this week has not been a very good one for Silverpoint in Tenerife, with another loss at the High Court and also at the Supreme Court.

The judge at the High Court Number 2, found serious breaches of the timeshare laws, declaring the client’s contract null and void and ordering the return of over £49,000 plus legal interest.

At the Supreme Court in Madrid, the judges upheld previous rulings and declared another Silverpoint contract null and void. This particular client will now receive over 28,000€ plus all legal fees and legal interest. Another happy ex Silverpoint owner.

As usual these were clients of the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. So this does go to show that in spite of what many timeshare companies are claiming, such as the article published on Wednesday about Anfi attacking CLA, this law firm is doing what it says.

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

Inside Timeshare leapt at the chance to publish details of CLARITY, Diamond Resort’s program to promote accountability, transparency and respect for the Customer. The program was introduced after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of Diamond complaints. One source informed us the office received 400 complaints leading up to the investigation and 500 more complaints after the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

Diamond Resorts also provided a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to assist members from day one if they have concerns about their timeshare.

Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints from members almost daily, with common complaints:

Purchase more points as that will be the only way to sell points. (Diamond’s secondary market restrictions make Diamond points almost impossible to sell.)

Purchase more points because that will provide you with the ability to pay maintenance fees by tendering excess points at 30 cents per point. (No such program exists as this is an adulteration of a 30/30 program designed for other purposes.)

Agents working for the same company selling against each other from the Hawaii Collection to the US Collections telling the member they made a mistake purchasing the collection they purchased, depending on which side of the Pacific the member is on.

Inside Timeshare has forwarded members complaints to Diamond’s PR firm and to ARDA. Both have ignored the complaints, but it is unlikely ARDA will enforce their Code of Ethics against a corporate member that gives ARDA a million dollars a year from Diamond members who unwittingly are billed $7 as an “opt-out” voluntary donation on their maintenance fee invoice. It is doubtful the average timeshare members understands even what the initials ARDA ROC stand for.

After reading complaint after complaint from our Nightmare on Timeshare series, I am certain our EU Diamond agents did not stoop to such tactics. Did this contribute to sales targets not being met?  Inside Timeshare has received 187 reader complaints, of which 178 are from Diamond Resort members.

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never returned Marsha’s call. One of Diamond’s Advocacy “hospitality” agents left one message but never returned her calls. CEO Michael Flaskey ignored Marsha Young.

A representative from Barclay’s Bank did contact Marsha Young. Although they cannot help, as Barclays does not physically open credit card applications, Marsha appreciated the respect she was given by at least being acknowledged.

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

Since our first Inside Timeshare US member story was published October 2016, we have received 186 member complaints, of which 171 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Of the 186 complaints, 177 are from Diamond Resorts members. We don’t dispute there are many timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but many have not yet been made aware of the lack of or limited secondary market. The majority of complaints allege they were told to buy more points because only at the next loyalty level could they sell points or be able to offset maintenance fees. Neither program exists. These members are stuck with a product they paid thousands of dollars for, felt were sold by deceit, incur maintenance fees and can’t sell. Their network of friends and family want nothing to do with timeshare. Sales centers should take note as Social Media no longer keeps members silenced and isolated. Diamond Resorts did not respond to our request for comment.

November 10

By Marsha Young

The vacation memories my husband and I shared together at Embassy Suites and Sunterra in Hawaii on the island of Maui are my most treasured, but our memories so precious have been destroyed. Maybe not the memories, but the timeshare we knew and loved has turned into a financial trap.

My husband passed away in 2011. I still travel some with friends and family and I enjoyed the flexibility of the point program until I succumbed to high pressure sales. In the past, when explaining the struggles of raising a family, or other reasons why we could not upgrade, agents would not push us when my husband and I said no, so I was not prepared for what happened. In an effort to warn others to seek counsel before you sign a perpetual contract after a six hour sales session, with rising maintenance fees, and no secondary market, I share my story.  

My problems began at the Diamond Resorts sales center at Williamsburg Virginia May 2017. I told the hospitality agent about how I had been deceived previously by a Hawaii sales agent. She told me she understood and explained that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until a new program called CLARITY was put in place. My Williamsburg sales agents were Richard Rodgers and Mark Schilling. I told them I did not want to spend any more money as the maintenance fees were going up so much for the Hawaii Collection. They told me I should transfer my Hawaii points to the US Collection because maintenance fees would be less. The cost was never discussed. I thought there would be no charge. I saved the paper they used showing points transferring over to the US Collection. They also encouraged me to open a Barclay credit card because it accumulated points rather than miles, but neglected to tell me the card would be charged $7,100 for a down payment. I had sent an email to both Richard and Mark telling them I did not want to spend more money. The sales presentation lasted six hours. I was exhausted. When I got home and went to my DRI account. I was shocked at the new $34,000 mortgage. The maintenance fees did not go down.

I did not know where to turn so I called a friend who is an investment advisor. He called Mark Schilling. Mr. Schilling’s response was, “She signed the contract. The QA session was videoed.” Recorded QA Sessions are part of the new CLARITY program. The sales presentation is what needs to be taped because that is when sales agents make promises not kept.

Richard Rodgers told me $400 a month would be the maintenance fee but it is the mortgage payment, so I owe maintenance fees on top of the mortgage payment. I was also told I could still book Hawaii, but in July 2017 I went to a meeting in Hawaii and was told I should not have transferred to the US Collection, because I would not be able to get back into Hawaii. They also said the value of the Hawaii Collection was more valuable and had the highest availability. Jessica Ocegueda was the sales agent. She said I had traded down and if I want to go to Hawaii on US Collection points in all likelihood “it’s not going to happen.” I have learned from other members you still can book in Hawaii with US points. I was convinced to transfer all my US Collection points to Hawaii Collection.

After six hours, there is insufficient time or energy to review an inch high stack of documents. Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never responded to my complaint, but they did send the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Barclays Bank my initials for the charge on a document.

  • Of the $138,000 approximate purchase price, $66,915 was taken back as credit for the US points and the balance financed was approximately $70,000
  • The down payment charged to my personal credit card was $8,529
  • A Barclaycard was charged $7,100
  • The monthly payment is $917.58
  • Estimated maintenance fee is $7,418

sad

At age 71, I watched my credit score plummet from the 800s to the 700s. I am a widow living on a teacher’s pension. I learned from reading Inside Timeshare articles and joining an Advocacy Facebook page, many have been told if they purchased more timeshare points, maintenance fees would go down. While the maintenance fee per point may decline a cent or two, the maintenance fee invoice does not decline. It’s easy for the resort defending their position to say, “You were confused,” but the volume of complaints found on the internet speak of sleight of hand, in my opinion.   

Not knowing where to turn I had contacted Irene Parker. Irene told me about the new CLARITY program Diamond Resorts implemented after the Arizona Attorney General issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. She also said Diamond Resorts now provides an advocacy department for those who have concerns about their purchase. CLARITY is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. I received none and was ignored by DRI Advocacy. It feels like the customer is always wrong.       

The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. It is not as easy or as enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would have been able to remain a Diamond customer had I not succumbed to an upgrade for reasons that were not necessary or true.  

I should have learned from the first bad experience I had in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I had been charged $2,995 for a program called the Sampler. I was refunded for that purchase because I did not know a credit card had been charged then until I returned home. Diamond said the agent, Mr. Frank Rippe, had been fired. They also said he had been the top selling agent of that particular product.

It is my hope timeshare members will continue to reach out to other members. It is a sad day when vacation timeshare plan buyers need a support group and a media outreach plan to warn other potential buyers.

act now

We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

As we read many stories such as this it no longer comes as any surprise, what does seem to be a recurring theme is the age group of the people that contact us. They also all have the same story, credit scores being destroyed, after years of no defaults.

One thing that did make me chuckle in Marsha’s story is Diamonds comment on the the sacking of the sales agent, “he had been the top selling agent of that product”, well that is not surprising if he was being that devious!

Once again Inside Timeshare thanks all those who provide us with the information and contribute their stories, if you would like to contribute contact Inside Timeshare. If you just require any information about your membership or about any company that contacts you or even thinking of doing business with, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Friday’s Letter from America

Another week over and another Friday’s Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a very quick look at two cases announced this week.

Silverpoint have once again been on the receiving end of another Supreme Court verdict. They have declared the client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £43,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

In this verdict the court stated that the contract lacked specific information required by law, such as a specific apartment number, date and location. It is quite clear that the Supreme Court has on more than one occasion clarified the law.

In another case heard at the Court of First Instance in Palma de Mallorca, Altres Vacances have been ordered to repay the client over 58,000€  plus legal fees and interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

This court has followed the Supreme Court rulings on the length of the contract, the law is very clear on this point, the contract must be no longer than 50 years. They must also contain specific information as required by law.

abogados-ag-250

Once again, we have to warn about the “fake” law firms operating out of Tenerife, part of the Litigious Abogados family, another reader has been in contact with the new firm Abogados AG, with Armando González Areca named as the main “lawyer”.

They state that following a “groundbreaking ruling on “Tuesday 19 March 2015” (very precise date), against Diamond Resorts International SL, one of the the directors, once again Andrew Cooper, has pleaded guilty to the indictment of the Spanish Civil Code. They also state that the High Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife have declared 28 of their clients contracts null and void, seizing all the personal assets of Mr Cooper in Spain and the Canary islands.

Now according to this “law firm” they will be lodging the case against Diamond Resorts International Sl and Mr Andrew Cooper on the 7th November 2017, this will heard on Tuesday 21st November, very quick indeed, they must be very well in with the judges!

In the case of our reader, they no longer own any timeshare with Diamond, they got rid of that years ago, so there is no basis for any claim. Beware the claims that you have a case, if you no longer own you don’t, even if you do own you may not have a valid claim. Before engaging with any company that states you do have a claim, check and check again.

See the full letter below, pdf.

Abogados AG

So now on with this week’s letter.

Another Bluegreen Member Alleges a “Bait and Switch”

Sometimes Called “Pitching Heat”

cross fingers

By Irene Parker

November 3  

Back in July, Inside Timeshare published an article by Lela Renea, a detective who alleged she was deceived by a Bluegreen timeshare sales agent. Camyell Pratt, another Bluegreen purchaser, alleges she and her husband were also deceived.

The FBI definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud, is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Inside Timeshare has received 179 complaints from readers, of which 164 allege they were victims of a timeshare bait and switch. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

Lela Renea is a detective. Camyell understands bad debt. She assists in collecting back taxes for a Virginia County government office and understands the repercussions when someone does not pay what they owe. But what if the contract agreed to was purchased under conditions of fraud?

In timeshare, that doesn’t matter thanks to the clause that appears in every timeshare contract – “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” In other words, any complaint that begins with “The salesman says” can be conveniently dismissed.

Bluegreen is certainly not the only timeshare company Inside Timeshare has reported on concerning questionable sales tactics by some agents:

A jury awarded Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent, $20 million. Ms. Williams described TAFT days – tell them any blank thing on slow sales days.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against The Manhattan Club. Of note, The Manhattan Club admitted wrongdoing, unusual in corporate America.

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a $6.5 million settlement with the owners and operators of the Manhattan Club, a timeshare in Midtown Manhattan, over the sponsor’s repeated false promises to potential and current share owners.

The settlement is the largest in recent history for the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau. Under the terms of the settlement, the operators of the Manhattan Club, acknowledge that they repeatedly misled shareowners about the club’s reservation process, their ability to sell back their shares, and the details of the club’s state-approved offering plan.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Missouri Attorneys General took action against other timeshare companies.

As we’ve said before, the abnormal becomes normal, whether it be predatory timeshare sales or sex abuse in the Catholic Church or Hollywood. Victims are messengers to be beheaded or silenced and isolated through non-disclosure clauses. To my knowledge, except for The Manhattan Club, timeshare developers have not even acknowledged deceit on the front of the timeshare sale, despite thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits too numerous to mention.

Current and former timeshare sales agents and managers are also speaking out. As one manager explained:

I watched every day, agents selling for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them.  The maintenance fees statement about buying more and using that to pay your maintenance fees was a practice that was encouraged but be careful.  Some of the agents would sell the program for $98k when it was only in the 50k range.  One of the guests came back to cancel but the agent said no worries I have it packed 40k but I’ll give then 15 off and still make a killing!   It made me sick because these particular guests were in their late 70′ early 80’s.  I asked the agent if he had a conscience and he just laughed…if you can get them to pay more you’re a hero!!  They have the money!!  Deception actually goes back further than that.  We were told to pack the price for a trade in and imply that it was what they got back for their TS… we sold it for the regular price….they got nothing for their TS!

Some companies are trying to do the right thing. Bluegreen has been listening and taking appropriate action in some cases. Diamond Resorts has opened a Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department that pledges to help members from day one and has launched a program called CLARITY which promotes accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

Instead of beheading the customer’s, legitimate attorneys, volunteer advocates and journalists, why won’t the timeshare developer not identify and drain the swamp of predatory sales agents? After receiving 179 complaints from our readers, at times we can guess the agent by the con.         

cartoon fraud

Camyel and Jayson Pratt

Camyell and her husband Jayson endured an eight hour Bluegreen timeshare sales presentation at Harbor Light in South Carolina. They were promised:

4000 points plus 6000 points plus two RCI weeks

Availability to a variety of resorts

What was delivered?

For 4000 points, according to one of our Advocates, also a Bluegreen member, the member can book a studio in winter on the wrong side of the weather report.

After filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Bluegreen did offer to credit Camyell the additional 6000 points promised. Camyell declined, deciding she did not want to have anything to do with a company that would resort to such tactics. Nevertheless, Bluegreen credited the family 6000 points anyway.

Camyell said they were given no paperwork after they signed the contract, told the contract needed to be processed. They were given a booklet about Bluegreen and the timeshare exchange company RCI.

Let’s see how Camyell’s complaint compares to Lela Renea:

  • Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  • Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  • Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  • Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  • Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  • Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  • Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Timeshare members have had enough. Timeshare has been employing tactics former timeshare sales agents call “Pitching Heat” or “No Heat No Eat” for too long.

Like so many of our readers have complained, Camyell was not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract rescission period. When she did finally gain access, she was informed she was not within the booking window and did not have enough points to book the stay she desired and says she had been promised.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always be targeting your best interest.    
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. File with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby dollars. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.html
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to act.
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The ⦁ BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation.  

chat

If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help Facebooks:

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

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

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

 

There we have it, Friday is here, the weekend is about to begin, have fun and don’t forget, do your homework before you deal with any company. If you are in any doubt, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

friday cat

The Mid Week Slot: Another New Name along with an Article by Michael Kosor

During our usual morning search of various websites and forums, we came across this from Mindtimeshare, it is our old friends Litigious Abogados with a new name to add to their ever increasing family.

amador-galeca-300x191

Amador Galeca is the new name to look out for, the address is one that has been used before with one of their other incarnations:

Calle de V. Sanz, N14, 16, 38002, Santa Cruz De Tenerife

With the freephone number: 0800 802 1223

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://amadorgaleca.com/

They also have some new names, which are variations of those that have been used before, and what looks like a few new faces in the photographs of the “lawyers”.

amador-malodan-galeca-243x300
Amador Malodan Galeca

Once again it is going to be the same old story, we are taking your timeshare company to court, it is scheduled for trial within the next few weeks, pay ex-amount and be part of it. Then suddenly you are told you won, as the director, (we’ll bet it is Keith Baker or Keith Balker again) has pleaded guilty.

We will be publishing a fuller post on this when we have done a little more research.

On the subject of legal action against timeshare companies, those lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance have once again got another result from the Supreme Court. That now makes 58!!

This one from reports is against Silverpoint, with the court declaring the contract null and void with the return of over £63,000 plus legal interest and legal fees. They also had another win against Silverpoint at the Court of First Instance in Tenerife. Again the contract was declared null and void and the return of over £59,000.

So now on with the article which was supposed to have been published in last Friday’s Letter from America.

Timeshare and Asset-Backed Security Products

cash

By Michael Kosor

September 20, 2017

There has been an increase in defaults for some timeshare companies concerning timeshare loans packaged in their Asset-Backed Securities (ABS) products. The average consumer will recall the devastation its sister security, the Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS), created that triggered financial collapse. Consumers and regulators should pay attention to the timeshare product today so similar to the products of 2007 that led to financial devastation.

I believe this is clearly and directly related to the increase in litigation by these particular developers, targeting consumer advocates and the legal community. While there definitely are attorneys practicing questionable business practices, “Kill all the lawyers” is not the answer. Every citizen has a right to legal representation if they feel they have purchased a product sold by deceit.

Developers are rightly hypersensitive to any bad press that points to increases in loan defaults as they are sure to negatively impact ABS rating/pricing. The ABS product and the associated market are by nature complicated, not part of our public market system, so limited to sophisticated players. As such, it is not a part of mainstream news. To that end, watch a very short video published by Allison Bisbey, Editorial Director, Capital Markets Newsletter.  

https://asreport.americanbanker.com/video/diamond-resorts-abs-under-pressure-from-companys-sales-tactics

Some developers are experiencing an elevated level of defaults. In the case of Diamond Resorts, it has reached a point the rating agency for DRI, KBRA (Kroll Bond Rating Agency) recently saw fit to issue a note on the issue, albeit not surprisingly, a reaffirmation of KBRA’s original rating.

https://www.krollbondratings.com/announcements/3705

A timeshare ABS is a security whose income payments, and hence value, is derived from and collateralized or “backed” by a pool of underlying assets. Contrary to popular opinion, “hard” assets do not serve as the primary collateral – only the contractual obligation to pay. However, hard assets do provide secondary security and impact overall price/return.  

Today, the vast majority of timeshare loans are not backed by any real property interest. Timeshare ABSs sold today are little more than securitized consumer loans. Yet when I talked to the Moody analysts just a couple weeks ago about their most recent Wyndham ABS rating, they stated they use criteria established in 2003 – when a timeshare loan was typically still attached to a real estate interest.

In rating an ABS, comparisons with historical loan default rates are critical. Timeshare ABSs, notably a different underlying product than the one packaged today, report very limited/zero defaults.  This is not because the consumer default rate is or was low – to the contrary. Rather, DRI (not unlike Wyndham) uses ABS structure options allowing them to repurchase or substitute all of its defaulted loans. As a result, the ABS reports defaults as 0% while actual consumer defaults are much higher. (Note a 6% – 8% default rate for “aged” loans is informally used, if any pre-option rate is reported or available at all). Aged loans have a proven repayment history of 6 months or more. The “aged” number does not include what is certainly a much higher total consumer default percentage of timeshare loans when early defaults are included.  

The repurchase and substitution option in an ABS is typically capped at around 15% of the total. More importantly, the rating agency should not (but appear to nonetheless) give credit to the option to repurchase or substitute defaulted loans. Gross loss expectations are increasing also. It is reported in the investor literature as 11 – 12% in prior years to 13-14% today; dangerously close to underwriting limits.  

Wyndham and DRI would like its debt investors to believe the increase in defaults is due to an uncharacteristically high number of borrowers being solicited by lawyers and “scammers” offering to get consumers out of their timeshare. Thus, we see the rise in Cease and Desist letters and litigation targeting consumer “friendly” legal providers.

What is more, ABS investors, thus the developers selling timeshare ABSs, are hypersensitive to cash flow. Admittedly a bit desensitized since 2007, they will nonetheless respond when issues or news challenge a specific ABS or a class of ABS, such as timeshares.

Timeshare regulators (assuming any exist and/or pay attention) also need to be reminded that in 2007 investors experienced losses because they made decisions on bogus ratings, guarantees from mono-line insurers, and a blind faith in historically real-estate prices.  Simplistically, people ignored the quality of the contractual cash flow, relying instead on history (home price appreciation in the case of the MBS). This sounds analogous to timeshares today.  

With the rise in Social Media, timeshare members are more and more expressing increased owner unrest, disturbed by a rise in consumer complaints, as evidenced by Mark Brnovich’s issuance of Diamond’s Assurance of Discontinuance AOD fueled by over 900 consumer complaints. Is anyone paying attention?

I spoke to a Wyndham executive last month at my VOAs annual meeting. He saw this issue as a problem caused by lawyers seeking timeshare members and a major problem. With an aging population of original buyers who no longer want or need their timeshare, many don’t know where to turn when there is no secondary market and the contract is perpetual.

On a similar line, most all ABS, to include timeshares, are supported by significant “credit enhancements” to protect the investors from higher than anticipated (historical) default rates. Overcollateralization (issuing less debt than total assets held) is a particularly valued credit enhancement technique used. However, overcollateralization becomes tricky, even suspect, when the assets held by the seller have no explicit face amount/market established price as with the non-viable timeshares resale market. My impression is most agency raters, while sophisticated financial types, are not educated on the underlying change of the timeshare product pool being securitized, as most are reliant on the developers for their information and understanding.

Finally, as I noted earlier, reported default rates are zero. As a result, most rating agencies, I argue to retain clients, and many investors, dependent on industry reporting, do not dig any deeper. Both sides see no news as good news – once again analogous to the 2007 mortgage back securities fiasco. This needs to change.

risk1

Thank you Michael, not being of a financial mind, the article has been a bit of an education, I just didn’t know these things went on.

There we have it, look out for the article on Amador Galeca, more important beware of any calls or emails promising that you have money waiting for you. The truth is you haven’t, all they want is your money, so stay safe, keep your money in the bank and do your homework before parting with it.
homework kid