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Brad Leslie

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the Easter edition of Friday’s Letter from America, by Joshua Parker, Sheila Brust and Richard Sokolowski, edited by Irene Parker.

Just as we were getting this ready to publish, Josh has been informed by the Florida Timeshare Division, they will be initiating a new investigation into his complaint. Josh and Nicole’s first complaint that they were told their Diamond points are an investment and easily sold, had been closed. They are now expecting twins and cannot afford the timeshare, Josh is a combat veteran who has seen service in Iraq. So at least some good news before we start.

Normally we have a roundup of news from Europe, but that was published yesterday, so straight on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

Earth to ARDA Part II

Another Open Letter to ARDA CEO Howard Nusbaum

Robert Clements, Lobbyist and General Counsel

Peter Roth, ARDA media

By Joshua Parker, Sheilah Brust and Richard Sokolowski

March 30, 2018  

consumer1

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.”  

Diamond Resort members Sheilah Brust, Joshua Parker, and Richard Sokolowski have learned there is no timeshare regulation and there is no timeshare enforcement for us. We have been filing complaints with every regulatory agency known to an American citizen and all we get is a passing of the buck to another department or agency. In addition, we have been given some ludicrous advice from regulators that are clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality.

Sadly, we agree with Eron and Irene. We think ARDA’s Code of Ethics is meaningless. Like Eron and Irene, we are professionals.

Sheilah Brust: Worked for the New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations

My experience speaking with an FBI agent and what I learned about the process    

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-14/

Josh Parker: Army combat veteran, Sergeant

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-41/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezkJ7GlJN4U&feature=youtu.be

Richard Sokolowski: Arizona Real Estate

Earth to ARDA by Eron Grant and Irene Parker – Part I

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-40/

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

Sheilah Brust: So far the only light on the horizon is the FBI. Through Social Media members are talking to other members. No one doubts there are those who use and enjoy their Diamond points. I enjoyed my Diamond points as a Platinum member until we were pitched a program that does not exist. We weren’t confused. The numbers were easy to understand. Gad and Noreen Liebmann are enjoying their retirement by protesting outside Diamond’s Daytona Beach Regency Resort. We were both up-sold by the same Diamond sales agent, Brad Leslie, the same program that does not exist, and still Diamond will not listen.

Protest

According to Facebook postings, the FBI has been responsive and agrees our allegations constitute fraud – deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch. In our opinion, Diamond, in effect, endorses and approves of these tactics by maintaining the position the customer is always wrong. Hospitality agents from the Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department automatically respond, “Sorry you signed a contract” and the emailing of your initials on fine print rewards bad behavior with a commission check.  

Josh: I was advised by Hector Tapininge at the Florida Department of Business Practice and Regulation DBPR to call a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Like Sheilah, I learned licensed timeshare resale agents won’t even accept a Diamond listing feeling the resale market for Diamond points is non-existent. I almost signed up with a scam until finding our Advocacy Facebook.

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

When I informed my reviewer that licensed resale brokers won’t accept a Diamond listing; he said he was aware of this. In other words, send the consumer on a wild goose chase that often leads Diamond members into the nets of scams.

How many timeshare buyers knew they were buying a lifelong timeshare product that could not be sold? As a veteran, I can tell you no service member would ever buy an unsellable asset. The Diamond contract states you can sell your points. Since you are dealing with a licensed real estate agent, it is logical to assume the timeshare can be sold, especially since we were told Diamond points are an investment.

Given so little enforcement and regulation, our mission is to reach the general public to make sure they know they are spending thousands of dollars, signing a perpetual contract, with rising maintenances fees and no secondary market.

Veterans, Active Duty military and law enforcement and government workers are encouraged to support Whistleblowers of America, a nonprofit in Washington DC that seeks justice.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Sheilah: I was contacted by Mr. Alan Parkinson, Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement, Division of Consumer Services.

Mr. Parkinson recommended I contact DBPR, the same Florida Department of Business Practices and Regulation Josh contacted. We saw how much good that did with the response Josh received. I will follow up and we will all continue to report on our progress or lack of. I too spoke with licensed resale brokers. I was told even timeshare companies that do allow a secondary market; the net to the consumer is often negative after commission. I was told I could list a deeded week I own, but it would end up costing me money to get rid of it. Consumers defrauded, are left with a perpetual contract, rising maintenance fees and no secondary market. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Richard Sokolowski: I tried to file a complaint against Diamond Resorts with the Nevada Attorney General’s office. They won’t do anything if I did not buy from a Nevada sales agent. I can’t believe a consumer complaint can’t be filed against a company headquartered in Nevada.

I was also told to contact an attorney. Diamond is the only major timeshare with a class action ban, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is known to be pro-industry. Diamond hires the arbitrator. If the arbitrator rules against the member, the member can be ordered to pay Diamond’s legal fees; and that amount can be higher than the disputed amount. Besides, Diamond has armies of lawyers and outside law firms. They can outspend the average citizen. I’ve talked to lawyers. Getting a lawyer will do nothing to stop predatory and criminal business practices.

Sheilah: According to Josh, this response from the Florida Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement is useless.

Ms. Brust,

By way of introduction, my name is Alan Parkinson and I am the Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement, Division of Consumer Services.  I have received your concerns and would like to take a minute to respond.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has a Timeshare and Condominium division that can likely address many of your concerns regarding the sales practices and issues you have with Diamond Resorts.  If your issue is with the purchase and contract for the timeshare, they would be the appropriate agency to speak with. You can contact them through the link below:

http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/  

 

If your issue is outside of those parameters then you may consider filing a complaint with us so that we can reach out to them and asked that they address your concerns.

www.floridaconsumerhelp.com  

If you any questions please feel free to contact me directly.

Alan Parkinson

Comment from Irene

The Florida timeshare division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014, in contrast with the Arizona Attorney General’s office that opened an investigation after receiving 400 DRI complaints and, according to a source, received 500 additional complaints after the press release. The AZ AG has issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. Diamond did not admit wrongdoing.

From Eron’s March 9 article:

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 live on Mr. Simmons letter carrier pension.   

Roy and Teresa Mori, Mr. Mori a recipient of two Purple Hearts, remains devastated. Based on the response daughter Teresa Laird reported to us from a hospitality agent working for Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, the company doesn’t care if sales agents have allegedly ruined their lives. “Sorry, you signed a contract” after being sold 17,000 MORE points over the phone by a Las Vegas company representative after daughter Teresa called to explain the Sampler or trial product should be cancelled. In the middle of her archeology thesis, she is making signs to protest outside Diamond’s Polo Towers.  

In response to a draft sent for comment, Josh received this response from DBPR:

Josh’s responses to Ahmed Y. Kassoo  are in bold

Thank you for contacting the division regarding your concerns. Please note that the division is not authorized to comment on or give its opinion of or approve any articles written by any individual which he or she intends to publish in any form including at various websites or in other publications.

I understand.

Since the division does not regulate the operations of real estate brokers, we are not aware of their criteria with regards to offering real estate listing and marketing services.  As a courtesy and for information purposes only, we provide the web site information of licensed real estate brokers (LTRBA) who specialize in selling timeshare interests and vacation club membership in Florida.  We neither recommend nor endorse a particular broker.

I understand, but why is nothing done about Diamond sales agents allegedly selling vacation points as an investment, yet the points are worthless the moment the contract is signed, should the buyer need to sell. LTRBA members will accept a listing for any major timeshare EXCEPT Diamond Resort, so not only is there no resale value when they are selling the points as an investment, they are the only major timeshare company that can’t be listed with them. Our Diamond Advocacy Facebook of over 1,100 members is flooded with similar complaints, the BBB has over 1,000 complaints and the AZ AG received over 900 complaints, yet the Florida AG timeshare division sends you to LTRBA? Can you see how frustrating this is? Not only is there no regulation or enforcement, Diamond victims are sent on a wild goose chase.     

Please note that it is always safe to employ a licensed real estate broker who are prohibited from collecting advance fee for listing the timeshare for rent or sale, except when permitted by law, and who are strictly regulated by the state.

What does this have to do with Diamond members if the LTRBA members won’t list their points? They feel Diamond has restricted the use of points purchased on the secondary market to the point it does not exist; it’s a hamster wheel 1. Lie to sell 2. Force foreclosure (I know of over 30 active duty and retired military and law enforcement alleging they were defrauded by Diamond, Bluegreen and Vacation Village, seven are concerned they are going to lose their Security Clearance, one lost his air unit command) 3. Take back the points 4. Resell to the next victim. With so little enforcement or regulation, there is nothing to stop timeshare sales agents from using and abusing the oral representation clause.    

If they cannot help the owners, they will let them know upfront and will not waste their time and money to advertise their properties which they know are not marketable. They will not give a false hope unless they are sure they can sell the timeshare.  Despite your statement that “resale market is nonexistent”, please note that timeshare interests do sell in the secondary market, however, buyers are selective and only buy those timeshares which they consider to be in high demand at choice locations. Therefore, it is not true that the timeshare resale market is non-existent.  If it was, these brokers won’t be able to survive.

One of them told Shielah they survive because they get paid a commission even when the seller ends up with a net loss. We don’t hold that against them, but that’s how they survive.  

An owner is free to select any entity to market his/her timeshare interest or club membership.  However, based on the history of complaints we have received, we have learned that many owners have been burned by the individual and entities who take their money and run without providing the promised services based on false and misleading claims.

Exactly, I rest my case. The industry is the cause of the scams because desperate consumers who feel, know, they were defrauded, are easy prey for professional liars.  

I hope this information was helpful

No, I’m sorry. It was of no help. It is my opinion the reason there is so little enforcement and regulation is because Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is influenced by the timeshare PAC ARDA. I will be researching through FOIA how much money she has received in campaign contributions and other means.    

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

If you have any other question or concern, feel free to contact us at your convenience. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to address your concerns.

Thank you. I would like to speak with you. My wife and I have been defrauded. I am a combat veteran, 90% disabled. My wife is pregnant with twins. We bought this because we were told it was an investment and that the points could be easily sold. I know many other members who would appreciate your help, like Eron, Sheila Richard and Gad mentioned in the article.

How many consumers need to contact DBPR to convince DBPR some timeshare sales agents in Florida are engaging in criminal practices?  Irene said Bluegreen has as many complaints as Diamond, but they have their own Advocacy Facebook.

Josh Parker

If you are having a timeshare nightmare, contact our Facebook or one of the non-industry influenced, self-help Facebooks and website listed below.

star

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

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 to all our contributors and we hope we see more positive results in the weeks ahead. If you would like to share your story with others, contact Inside Timeshare.

We wish you all a very Happy Easter and don’t eat all the eggs in one go!

easter egg

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, this weeks article has been submitted by Sheilah Brust and her complaint to the FBI regarding her dealings with Diamond sales agents. Inside Timeshare has passed on many complaints to the US team, who are also helping people to file similar complaints.

Now for our usual look at some of the European news.

Another contract has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court in Madrid, this time against Palm Oasis / Tasolan. According to the judgement the contract was once again in breach of the timeshare law in regards to the contract being for an indefinite period, or for more than the stipulated period and the taking of deposits within the cooling off period.

The UK couple (pictured below) have been awarded over £12,000 plus the legal fees and legal interest. The case was brought by the lawyers Miguel Rodriguez Ceballos and Eva Maria Gutiérrez, both from Canarian Legal Alliance.

CLA Clients

PDF for the Supreme Court Sentence

Palm Oasis Tasolan Supreme Court Sentence 114-2016

It has also just been announced that CLA have received Supreme Court ruling number 95, this was against the Tenerife based company Silverpoint.

The court again declared the contract null and void and has awarded £99,504 to the client, the court increased the amount by an incredible £26,652 in way of a fine against Silverpoint for taking an illegal deposit at the point of sale during the cooling off period. The client will also received back the legal fees and legal interest.

So far there is no news on the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly or Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates last year, with the magistrates referring the case to Birmingham Crown Court for sentencing. The delay may just be due to waiting for reports from the probation service which is a normal procedure, especially if a custodial sentence is possibly involved. When we find out we will let you know.

There is also still no news of the investigation of the South West Police ROCU investigation into some of the Mark Rowe companies, this is likely to be a long drawn out investigation which will be covering these companies activities over a number of year. Obviously there will be many consumers with complaints and all these will need to be interviewed. So don’t expect a speedy conclusion.

Now on with our FBI article from Sheilah edited by Irene Parker.

FBI Talking Points – “Just the Facts, Ma’am,” Joe Friday

By Sheilah Brust

March 13, 2018

For timeshare members too young to remember, “Just the Facts, Ma’am”

dragnet

The show (Dragnet) was the result of an extraordinarily close collaboration between (Jack) Webb (Sgt. Joe Friday) and LAPD Chief William H. Parker, who had quickly built a reputation for eliminating corruption. (Timeline June 20, 2017)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Xh4f8lOjU&list=PL_72IjwCotIQgQAe2WPvR2mPwEPVl-1FB

It was hard to believe I was on hold, waiting to talk to an FBI agent about my vacation plan. I am so disappointed at having to resort to this, but what we were told was not true. We have owned this timeshare since before it was acquired by Diamond Resorts. We had traded in our deeded timeshare into non-deeded Diamond vacation points and had accumulated 50,000 points, enough to become Platinum Diamond members. We had hoped to leave something nice for our children and grandchildren. After experiencing what I believe to be fraudulent bait and switch tactics, we don’t have enough money to travel. Like so many other complaints, we were told if we purchased additional points, we would not have to pay maintenance fees.  My husband and I had to get part time jobs to pay for the fees. I used to work for the New York State Governor’s office of Employee Relations, so I knew to start filing regulatory complaints, which is so time consuming it’s like having two part time jobs!

50,000 points I owned prior to the presentation

15,000 additional points in dispute

65,000 x 2 (double points) = 130,000

Our annual maintenance fee on 50,000 DRI points is $8,631. The additional 65,000 points redeemed at $.10 a point would have paid for $6,500 of the $8,631. It’s a great program. Too bad it doesn’t exit.

There is no such program allowing double points, but “Hospitality” agents at Diamond Resorts “Consumer” Advocacy department are trained to be detectives themselves, searching through the member’s contract to be able to email you back your initials on the fine print, in essence saying, it doesn’t matter what a sales agent says. All that matters is you signed a contract.      

According to lawyers our advocacy group has talked to, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, encouraging sales agents to lie. I found this online:

In case after case, scandal after scandal, American federal law enforcement officials have clearly shown by their indictments and prosecutions that there is no confusion in their minds—lying is a crime. Businesspersons need to clearly understand those rules and what prosecutors define as lying.

Graziadio Business Review

https://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/businesspersons-beware-lying-is-a-crime/

The reason timeshare agents get away with it is because there is virtually no enforcement. Timeshare buyers usually buy timeshares in states other than the state they live in (usually a state that sells lots of timeshares and brings in lots of tourist dollars), so when you file a complaint, the elected officials of the state, in which you are not a resident, may not take you seriously.

The weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doesn’t even allow you to select a timeshare company from their menu when filing and the timeshare borrower usually doesn’t even know the name of the actual lender. The timeshare company services the loan, so we picked Barclays from the menu, but when you talk to Barclays they usually say, according to our Facebook members, That’s too bad but we didn’t directly sell you the points or commit the alleged crime.”

So, here we are asking the FBI for help. This is what I learned reporting an online white-collar crime complaint through IC3.gov and orally through the FBI field office nearest to where we bought our timeshare. Any timeshare member who feels they have been victimized by “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, and bait and switch” of a serious nature, like ours, needs to file a complaint with the following law enforcement agencies in addition to filing regulatory complaints:

  • The FBI at IC3.gov online using the FBI’s Complaint Referral Form,
  • The FBI orally through the FBI field office nearest where you signed your contract.
  • When you call, select the prompt for “Submit a Tip” then #3, White Collar Crime. Have your facts ready and contract handy. It’s a good idea to write your facts down so that you have good facts in front of you. Even the thought of calling the FBI is a little intimidating, but the agent I spoke to was a nice man who seemed very interested in what I had to say.
  • The Federal Trade Commission – find the “Timeshare Sales” option. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted#crnt
  • The Secret Service – FBI agent #1234 I spoke with (I don’t want to use his real number) said we should also file with the Secret Service if it involved credit card fraud. We’re looking into that. www.secretservice.gov

In our case, we were not told two Diamond Barclay credit cards were going to be opened. We were not even aware of the amount of the down payment. The down payment was $26,000! We would have for sure used a credit card that would have earned us reward points. I was infuriated when our DRI salesman Brad Leslie came back and said “Barclay loves you guys! They gave you $26,000 credit!” We thought the form we filled out was to check our credit for the down payment. We already had two Barclaycards, one issued by Diamond and other personal. Now we have four Barclaycards!! We did not dispute it because Brad said he would transfer it to our existing Diamond loan. That never happened.  

Don’t be afraid to talk to the FBI. The agent I spoke with did not rush me. We spoke for over an hour. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/

Some of the things they will want to know include:

  • When you purchased your timeshare?
  • Where you purchased your timeshare?
  • Who sold you the timeshare?
  • What did you purchase?
  • How much did it cost?
  • Why do you feel it was fraud for profit?

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

I have read so many sad stories on our advocacy Facebook page. It tears me up inside to think a company that was good until about 3 years ago can do this to people. It’s gotten worse in the last few years. I guess I always want to believe in the best in people, but after this – $60,000 later, that is hard to do. We have asked Diamond to give us our money back for the last purchase that we believe meets the definition of fraud for profit. It takes a day to buy a timeshare, but weeks, days and sometimes years to get out of one.

Whatever you do, don’t pay anyone you don’t know money upfront to get you out of your timeshare. Check with our advocacy group before retaining an attorney or a “get you out of your timeshare” exit company.

With no secondary market, consumers are completely at the mercy of the timeshare company, but I hope we can turn this around and make the public and Diamond aware that some of their sales agents exhibit questionable business practices.

Diamond, make this a good company again!

There may be other timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by the same sales agent. If so, you can give the name and phone number of that member to the FBI agent so they can look up the other member’s complaint, linking your complaint to theirs. It’s a sophisticated system.   

Timeshare members nationwide want to thank the FBI for their efforts. Without them, we would have no federal enforcement – only members helping members.

tree

These are timeshare advocacy groups Inside Timeshare believes are pro-consumer, non-industry influenced, seeking to provide 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/

Thank you Sheilah for your contribution, we are sure it will give others the confidence to undertake this task themselves.

As always, if you have any questions or comments on any article published or are just wanting information on any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember doing your homework and checks before engaging with any company will save you in the end.