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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.

 

sermon-o-what-a-tangled-web

A Tangled Web!

This first piece of information from one of our readers, (although the same information has been received in the past), concerns the “FAKE” law firm in Tenerife Abogados Canarias, part of the ongoing fraud known as the Litigious Abogados family.

This particular reader had been contacted by this outfit with news that their timeshare company was being taken to court (as usual), that they could be part of this action. All they needed to do was pay a fee for the procurator to file their case with the rest.

abogados-canarias-logo

Luckily this reader decided to search the internet about this “law firm”, lo and behold found the article published here on Inside Timeshare, they then contacted us for further information, which as usual we gave free of charge.

We even warned them that this “FAKE” law firm would say that Inside Timeshare are the scammers! Not bad considering none of our readers are ever charged for any information or help given.

Well they decided to accept the return call as arranged, Yes you guessed it, they told the reader exactly what we had warned. They even told them that they had taken Inside Timeshare to court SIX TIMES last year!

Well myself and my lawyers memories must be going, as we can’t remember going to court ONCE, let alone SIX times.

Just to let you know at Abogados Canarias, all information supplied by our readers has and will be passed to the authorities to augment the denuncia made in February 2017 against your original “FAKE” law firms!

Another piece of interesting information has been supplied by our readers, this time it is concerning Diamond Resorts, it would appear that they are upsetting many of their members. (Well nothing new there!)

It now transpires that any members family using as guests, below that of Platinum is going to have to pay to use the WiFi, Swimming pool and other facilities on the European sites!

Apparently, the cost for using the pool is around £6 per day per person, not going to be a cheap holiday then, considering the extortionate maintenance fees associated with Diamond. It makes you wonder why you pay the high cost of membership in the first place along with the ongoing annual fees, when this happens?

Also is this just another ploy to “Upgrade” members to Platinum?

give us money

According to the information provided, it has nothing to do with Apollo, as they are only an “Investment Company” and has nothing to do with the day to day running of Diamond!

Hang on they Own Diamond, surly anything that Diamond management do which upsets the members, bringing bad publicity to the public eye, will have a detrimental effect on the share prices and thus on the “Investment”?

Well, all we can say is, timeshare is not the great thing is used to be, it has become nothing more than a money making machine that does not care about you the member. After all they got your money to join, they now get your money each year and if they can find another way to get more of it, they will!

We now move on to Silverpoint with another update.

We published recently the article on Centaurus Mediation SL, contacting Silverpoint members offering a relinquishment service, it also seemed that they were using the members data supplied by Silverpoint. We also stated that there was another company which had also been set up but no name had yet come forth.

The latest information provided by yet another reader is that Excel have taken the marketing contract from Silverpoint due to their bad practices. (Something we have known for years).

Apparently this was told to our reader by a representative from another company called Aspirantco, which we believe is part owned by Excel.

Excel is the management company behind all the resorts.

Aspirantco SL was registered 23/08/2017 with the company address given as Avda San Francisco 6 – Centro Comercial Pasarela, 38640 – (Arona) – Santa Cruz De Tenerife. The registered administrator is named as Carl Alan Jenkins, who is believed to have worked with Mark Cushway and Silverpoint for around 10 years. With the sales office apparently located at Port Royale another resort run by Excel and across the road from the Beverly Hills Club.

(Below is the PDF link to company details)

ASPIRANTCO SL, SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE

Could this be the one?

From other information supplied Mr Jenkins is also Project Director for a Tenerife Real Estate Company called Homes Under the Sun, which does not appear to have any known ties with the timeshare industry.

Further information has been uncovered on 12 companies in the UK where Mark Cushway is the registered director. 10 of the companies were registered on 24 June 2016 and 2 registered on 29 July 2016. All have the same registered address for the director as 1 Bedford Row, London, England, WC1R 4BZ.

All the companies have the same name apart from a number attached such as TLCC-20 LIMITED (10250781) and TLCC-52 LIMITED (10250807).  The occupation given for Mark Cushway on the entries is Leisure and Real Estate, with his country of residence as Spain.

All companies are listed as 55209 – Other holiday and other collective accommodation, it is also interesting to note that the registered offices are given as Twin Lakes Country Club, Near Arnside And Silverdale Aonb, Tewitfield, Lancashire, LA6 1JH.

Link to Directors from Company House

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/3h5jf615-FnVKDHNzhQzpquyuSY/appointments

As the old saying goes, “What a tangled web we weave”!!!

We leave you the reader to decide where this may just be going, we obviously have our suspicions. We also thank all readers who have contributed information.

If you are contacted by any of these companies Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you, or if you need any information, help or advice on any company that you may be thinking of doing business with get in touch and we will point you in the right direction.

tues

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.

 

tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the first article of the New Year, as the holidays are just coming to a close there is not a lot of news to bring. This will no doubt change over the next few weeks, when we begin to receive emails and questions on the myriad of companies that will be starting their New Year campaigns.

As usual we warn all our readers to be careful before engaging with any company that contacts you, especially with news that your timeshare resort is being taken to court (with the director pleading guilty) and you can also be part of this for a small fee.

Some basic points on the subject of claims, unless you purchased your timeshare in Spain after January 1999, you will not have a claim in the Spanish courts. If you have been offered a no win no fee claim, beware that it does not entail a large fee to relinquish your timeshare or even the purchase of another product, such as “Lifestyle Credits”. These no win no fee claims are usually the enticer, the promise of large sums to be returned, then it turns out it is a frivolous claim under Section 75 of the Credit consumer Act 1974.

Over the next few weeks we should be receiving the news from the Crown Court in Birmingham on the sentences for Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group. If you remember they pleaded guilty to charges of Aggressive Sales Practices and Coercion, contrary to The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Another group of companies are also subject to investigation from Trading Standards and could also be facing criminal charges, these are the companies of Mark Rowe, which include ABC Lawyers. At the beginning of December it was announced that several enterprises had been raided, with employees being questioned and documents seized for further investigation.

We will be keeping an eye out for any news on these and will bring you the news as it comes in.

Now for the first article from Irene Parker for 2018.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Plans for the New Year

By Irene Parker

January 2, 2017

  • Boost our media outreach group
  • Boost our legislative outreach
  • Boost our active duty and retired military outreach group

Inside Timeshare published many Nightmares on Timeshare Street articles in 2017. All were written or submitted by highly educated professional people. In 2018, will timeshare developers continue to hide behind the oral representation clause, or will they instead consider their customers might be telling the truth?

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ ended 2017 with a total of 260 timeshare complaints of which 245 alleged they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. The other 15 could not afford the timeshare. Members contacted us through Inside Timeshare or one of the U.S. self-help, member supported Facebooks posted at the end of this article. Many complain they had responded to unsolicited marketing calls asking if they wanted out of their timeshare only to learn the money they paid was lost.

Timeshare developers are beginning to listen. Wyndham now offers a surrender program called Ovation and Diamond Resorts announced just last week a surrender program called Transitions. Inside Timeshare has already received several questions from readers about Diamond’s Transitions program. We will be reporting on our readers’ transitions experience in 2018.

Legacy resorts are those that are sold out, free standing, deeded weeks. Liberté Management Group of the Pinellas Islands, Inc. announced TARS, a “limited deed, limited fun” exit plan will be operated as a subsidiary of Liberté and will be jointly headquartered in Treasure Island, Florida. We will continue to follow TARS in 2018.

TIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC EXPANDS SERVICES FOR LEGACY RESORTS AND OWNERS

Unfortunately, the majority of our readers are saddled with high interest rate loans, thus not eligible for a voluntary surrender program. It’s important to remember transferring to a lower interest rate loan through a third party lender is not advised, according to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. When transferring to a third party lender, the money in questions is no longer between you and the timeshare company. According to Mike,

Another tremendous and informative article! I think the one major, major admonition I have for anyone, client or not, who has purchased a timeshare with developer financing and may want to reconsider the merits of the purchase (and, of course, assuming the rescission period has passed), do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances, attempt to re-finance the purchase via a home equity line or a transfer to a lower interest credit card, or, for that matter any other methodology that has as its objective, re-paying the developer with other third party money.

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-2/

Also, anyone buying a timeshare should look to see if their contract contains an arbitration clause. We advise timeshare members exercise their right to opt out of arbitration within the allotted time available to opt out.

To start 2018 off on a positive note, this is an article Inside Timeshare published back in July about a company we firmly endorse, ruled by a bunch of little critters.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

What does Disney Vacation Club do other developers don’t that almost eliminates complaints? The reasons are detailed in the article, but in my opinion, it is mainly because Mickey allows and supports a secondary market.

Think about it. What if the primary residential housing market decided you could not sell your personal residence. Inside Timeshare has received complaints involving amounts up to, and on occasion exceeding, $500,000. This is easily the cost of a home. Timeshare companies tell us to think of our vacation points as a second home and they always greet us when we arrive, “Welcome Home!” Not being allowed to sell your home would devastate the housing market, and in our opinion, is destroying timeshare today. Out of 260 reader responses, not one knew when they purchased their timeshare, the limited or sometimes lack of a secondary market.

We have forged remarkable relationships with many of our readers, some who have moved on, having signed a non-disclosure agreement agreeing not to say anything negative about their resort, or were subjected to an arbitration ruling that was private and binding. In this way Inside Timeshare provides a voice for the voiceless when victims of white collar crime, financial institution fraud, are effectively silenced and isolated.

It’s easy to get discouraged, but Inside Timeshare and advocacy groups have made remarkable progress. So we soldier on into the New Year.

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these U.S. member supported self-help groups if you have a timeshare concern. We’re here to listen and act, going a step beyond helpful posts.   

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 have any questions or comments on any article published, contact Inside Timeshare, if we don’t know the answer we will find out for you. If you require any information about any company that you may be thinking of doing business with, but need to find out about them first, get in touch and we will point you in the right direction.

 

money

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

          

 

nightmare

More Nightmares on Timeshare Street

Today’s article is rather disturbing, it highlights how members of the armed services and veterans are being targeted by unscrupulous sales agents. For people who put their lives on the line, this behaviour is particularly obnoxious.

Timeshare Wars

Samuel Melendez, our Advocacy group thanks you for your service to our country

troops

By Irene Parker

Diamond and ARDA seek to destroy me. I know that sounds melodramatic, but sources tell me it’s true.  I’m confident this will happen sooner rather than later. The industry and ARDA’s answer to our advocacy efforts is to behead the messengers rather than examine the business practices of top selling agents. I’m told one executive even commented, “They are victimizing the uneducated,” in regard to Timeshare Advocacy Group™ and our efforts.

Please read the American Resort Development Association’s (ARDA) Code of Ethics and Eron Grant’s article about the code before reading the following ten reader reports about their allegations of deceit.

http://www.arda.org/ethics/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen each give $1 million a year in the form of voluntary “opt out” donations to the timeshare lobby, a PAC, called ARDA ROC. Members are told it is a nonprofit that helps timeshare members. It is doubtful many members even know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for. Marriott’s contribution is an “opt in” donation. It took several calls to have my $7 removed from my account. When I called in November, I was told it was a delinquency. Having researched timeshare for over two years, I was able to determine the $7 was moved from one account to another. I suspect it was to have me forget about it as it mushed into the 2018 invoice.    

In a span of ten days, Inside Timeshare has been contacted by seven active duty and retired military, describing how they say they were defrauded by predatory timeshare sales agents from four companies.  A 100 page summary of 249 complaints against timeshare sales agents and companies is available upon request by regulatory authorities. Of the 249 complaints, 233 are against Diamond Resorts.  I am a Diamond member. I did not choose to do business with Diamond. We were acquired in the ILX Arizona acquisition. If I were instead a Bluegreen member, 233 out of 249 complaints would be against Bluegreen. Bluegreen members have their own Advocacy group supporting members who want out of their Dream Vacation that can become a Nightmare when a life crisis occurs.  

troops2

Today we thank Samuel Melendez who spent 21 years in the army training soldiers, working with colleges, teaching chemical, biological and nuclear defense. When a military family is forced into foreclosure because they were lied to about being able to sell back points or finance at a lower rate, they don’t just lose their money. This can jeopardize their security clearance and their job.  Amanda Jones, featured in Tuesday’s article, has suggested individual base commanders be informed in the hope they will ban service members from attending timeshare presentations and events. “The Diamond sales agent that sold us points said he was a Marine. If he is not, that’s stolen valor. Base commanders need to be aware of the predatory nature of timeshare sales. My husband George and I, Navy computer technicians, feel we were victimized.”   

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

If seven members of the military, describing how they say they were defrauded were not enough in a week, Gay and Ed Brewer called me yesterday. My husband and I owned a bioavailability pharmaceutical research laboratory, but I have heard more grave medical conditions in the last two years assisting timeshare members, than I did in ten years as president of our company.   

Gay Brewer, 74 and Ed Brewer, 77

First, here is Diamond’s Rebuttal to my article written for Jim Cramer’s TheStreet about Apollo’s acquisition of Diamond dated June 30, 2016.

It is also incorrect to state that Diamond Resorts is “not interested” in liquidity in the resale market for timeshares because the company profits from “reclaiming” vacation ownership interests that are defaulted on by the customer. To the contrary, Diamond Resorts understands that customers experience life events that change the circumstances from when they originally purchased vacation ownership interests. That is why the company not only permits resales, but we also recently announced a new “Transitions Program” to launch soon, and will allow those in good standing to relinquish their points to the company in a simple, safe and respectful manner.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html#2

The snag is “in good standing” because almost all timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare say they were pressured into high interest rate loans. All timeshare companies can and do cancel loans. I’ve come to learn it is a matter of who wears down whom first.

According to Gay Brewer,

Ed’s heart stopped beating three times this past year. He has had a prior heart attack. He has had a Pacemaker defibrillator implanted which has fired three times. He cannot fly on an airplane or be exposed to high altitudes. He is monitored 24/7 by a Holter monitor. We had to evacuate our California home due to the Liberty fire. At present we are receiving 12 collection calls a day (six each) from Diamond’s collection agents.

Deneice Vargas, another Diamond member in foreclosure (her husband Louis is diagnosed with Bell’s palsy), told me “When DRI Consumer Advocates are not busy advocating for members by researching and providing the member’s initials on the fine print, in response to “the sales agent said”, they make collection calls.” The oral representation clause may make this legal robbery, but Social Media is eventually going to catch up. Several attorneys have told me the oral representation does not allow timeshare companies to get away with sale agents who lie, but there is virtually no enforcement. State enforcement is spotty at best.

The Brewers were Monarch owners. Like so many, they were told they had to give up their deeded week. This was not true. Four or five contracts later, after the last up-sell at Diamond’s Polo Towers Resort, they decided they regretted buying points due to disappointment in availability. While I find good value in Arizona and Orlando using points, limited availability is a major complaint voiced by Diamond and Bluegreen members. The Brewers have written to DRI Consumer Advocacy:

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy

We are asking our loans be cancelled due to medical and financial hardship. We were told we would not be able to use our Monarch week unless we bought DRI points and that our Monarch week was worthless. We were never told of the option to deed back the week to DRI. Due to the burden of medical bills, we have not made payments since July and will not be able to make future payments.

We contacted Exit Timeshare as they guarantee timeshare release but they said they would charge us $28,000. I contacted Irene Parker. She told us to contact Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy instead. She said DRI Advocates have helped many in our situation. We were not aware there was a DRI Advocacy program.

Please contact us as soon as possible. It was never our intention not to meet this obligation, despite the fact that there was never adequate availability when we tried to book and we were never told of the option to deed back our Monarch week. We have learned that on TUG Timeshare Users Group, DRI is accepting more than 95% of requests, if in good standing.  

Thank you for your consideration.

Gay Brewer

army

Samuel Melendez Response to DRI Advocate Ben from Irene Parker

Mr. Melendez, DRI Complaint #207/233, is the eighth Platinum member to contact Inside Timeshare alleging financial institution fraud, deceit and bait and switch by DRI agent Rick Casper. The depth of corruption and the degree of criminality is now over my head, based on Karen Varten’s and Samuel and Delores Melendez report preceded by 231 others. Mr. Melendez and Ms. Varten have both reported a negative outcome.  

The Melendez family Edward Jones financial planner contacted me, so I am responding on the family’s behalf. I retired from Edward Jones Hawaii. Their EDJ financial planner had researched timeshare a little and found a law firm offering legal assistance for well over $10,000. He asked me if he should refer the family to this lawyer. I have nothing against the firm he mentioned, but I told the EDJ broker to hold off because I have referred seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy and they have helped all of them. They reported a positive outcome, albeit one needed the assistance of the Arizona Attorney General. What did Mr. Melendez receive from their Diamond Consumer Advocate as a response? Basically, they received a reminder of the oral representation clause, and their initials on the fine print, despite seven other identical Rick Casper complaints from members who received positive outcomes.

I spent a good two hours on the phone Monday with the FBI. My new neighbor is a federal prosecutor on sabbatical from California. I asked him for advice, but he only knows about murders. After speaking with the FBI (for the fourth time), and a few lawyers, I am convinced the oral representation clause does not hold water when used to hide behind. The FBI explained what it’s going to take, so we are filing complaints first on the FBI website IC3.gov and then orally, on the FBI tip hotline, found on the FBI website. Rick Casper is not the only DRI sales agent pitching bogus resale and maintenance fee programs that don’t exist. We have recently received complaint about a Las Vegas sales agent by the name of Adam Mendenhall offering point upgrades that would allow paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point. This program does not exist. DRI sales agents that make $1 to $2 million a year in commission tend to get more attention.  

One of our core advocates is a Tampa detective. She has advised us to file with the Nevada Real Estate Division. She was duped by Bluegreen. Like the detective, Scotty Black, DRI Complaint #164, works in law enforcement and has a MS in Criminal Justice. At least I have some help.

George and Amanda Jones, DRI Complaint #211, a married couple living in Virginia, are Navy computer technicians. Scotty, George and Amanda cannot afford their timeshare because of being told it would be easy to get their timeshare refinanced at a lower rate because the DRI sales agents told them there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares, among other allegations. Forced into foreclosure, they could lose their security clearance and their job.  

Last week I was contacted by seven members of the armed forces, active duty and retired, four DRI complaints. Only the Air Force is not represented. Karen Varten, DRI Complaint #219, a Platinum up-sell, was contacted by DRI Marketing San Diego, hosted by Florida DRI sales agents in Virginia. Karen owned 57,000 points. She was told if she bought 25,000 additional points (totaling  82,000), if purchased today, she would have double points so 165,000 points to cover all maintenance fees and still have points left to travel. What was the response to her complaint? She was provided her initials on the contract.   

Preying on the young and old is bad enough, but Mr. Melendez taught our young men and women in the army how to defend themselves against biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. He sent a lot of those young people to war, and some of them did not return, protecting (alleged) predators like Rick Casper and, as the reports below offer compelling and compounding evidence, Diamond Resorts as well. Circumstantial evidence is still evidence.

Mr. Melendez has filed complaints with the FBI and the BBB. In the unlikely event DRI will help this family, please contact him by Wednesday, before we publish this article. There would be nothing that would make me happier than to end the year with a happy outcome for someone who spent 21 years teaching soldiers how to be protected from biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, instead of forcing this family to fork over – more than $10,000 the family will need to pay an attorney to get them out of this mess if DRI does not help them. After the last Rick Casper up-sell, their monthly payment has escalated from $431 a month to $2200. They told me they told Mr. Casper they were worried about passing this burden on to their heirs.  

All of the Platinum members listed below liked DRI, but now tell me they think this is the most crooked company in existence. I feel a little like Martin Luther, thinking the Catholic Church would appreciate his exposing corruption in the Catholic Church.  ARDA has had the same reaction as the Pope did then. A copy of all reports is sent to ARDA’s General Council and CEO in the hoping they will read their Code of Ethic.  

Irene Parker

Seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells totaling $819,000 including Mr. Melendez $133,000.

1 CL $75,000

During our meeting we were told about all the new changes that had been discussed at the Dinner that would allow us to sell our points. My husband has Cancer so all that was going through his mind was trying to make a choice that would help me later on if the Chemo doesn’t work and when Rick Casper convinced him this was the answer that’s all my husband heard. When we were in that office he was Stage 4. He has Colo-rectal Cancer that has spread to his Liver and Lungs. Our Las Vegas trip was something we wanted to do before my husband started his treatment.

I don’t understand how the DRI finance team could even approve us for a $75,000 loan for Timeshare Points when we had been turned down from two different companies while trying to refinance our house just this past year. Both requests were for under $100,000.

2 Nancy Callahan, age 69 $142,000

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

3 KK, age 61 $117,000

We have a picture of Rick and pitch

Questionnaire sheet last two questions: Had you attended dinner? What is your exit strategy? Apollo had dinners informing members Cloobeck was leaving.  Not everyone heard the presentation so Rick was talking to members Platinum about the Legacy program. He said DRI never allowed you to sell points. This will. He knows real estate people can get $5 on resale for DRI points. New members are paying $9 so if you buy at $4 it is easy to sell. He had contacts that he could set us up with. 12/29/2016

4 RB, age 66 $75,000

Mr. Casper said on at least four occasions I was eligible for a Pool Party Upgrade that would provide an exit strategy. He said the program was about to expire so I needed to write a sentence that said I wanted to do this and he would get the purchase approved. I never received a copy of the sentence. The purpose of the purchase, according to Mr. Casper, was to make my existing points more valuable. Mr. Casper went on to explain that this exit strategy would allow me to monitor and sell the points. He mentioned that he is a family man and does not want to pass his points and maintenance fees on to his kids.

5 JH, age 56 $132,000

“The main benefit that he presented was the ability to convert points directly into cash at $0.30 per point. If at any time during the year we had leftover points we could be reimbursed for those points in cash.  All we had to do was contact Dan Percy and he would process the transaction and put the money on our reloadable Visa card.”

I continued to ask questions about each benefit so that I would be certain.  I worded questions differently to see if I would get the same answer.  I threw out this scenario; “If at the end of the year I have 30,000 points still sitting in my account, you’re telling me that I can get reimbursed cash for these points at $0.30 per point.”  His response; “Absolutely – You contact Dan Percy and he will load $9,000 onto the Visa card.” We purchased 40,000 points to get us to the level of “Super Platinum”.

6 AC, age 68 $55,000

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

We purchased an additional 20,000 points on July 16, 2016 for $55,200 from Richard Casper, at Cancun Resort, Las Vegas. The reason we purchased these points is because Rick told us if we went from Gold, to Platinum status, he could sell the points if we needed to. In addition, he told us we could substantially reduce our maintenance fees by submitting receipts to him for goods and services. We have never seen a tangible way to reduce our current $8,685 maintenance fees.  

We contacted Richard Casper by email on April 7, 2017 because we need to sell the 20,000 points. We received an autoreply stating to contact VP Dan Percy. We talked with Dan Percy on April 14, 2017. He stated that Diamond Resorts sales personnel don’t assist people who need to sell points and are not allowed to provide any company names that buy and sell timeshare.

In addition, during our sales presentation with Richard Casper July, 2016 we asked about combining our eight contracts. He advised that any free and clear points sold on the resale market will have the same benefits except loyalty level as long as no more than 20,000 points to one individual and it would be better not to combine the points. He stated that many Gold owners would be happy to buy 20,000 points at the lower price to become Platinum owners.  

7 JM, age 61 $90,000

Rick Casper was introduced to me as a Platinum specialist. Mr. Casper said I made a big mistake buying Hawaii points and a bigger mistake transferring the 20,000 points I bought in Daytona, due to a class action lawsuit against DRI members causing exorbitant increases in maintenance fees because of storm related beach erosion.  

Mr. Casper said I had to transfer back to US Collection and if I owned 100,000 points I would be unofficially known as a double platinum member and I would be able to sell any unused points in November and December each year back to Diamond at 30 cents per point, as DRI could sell those points annually to other members. Mr. Casper said this was closely regulated by the authorities. Mr. Casper said by selling these point back to DRI at 30 cents per points I could pay some or all of my maintenance fees for that year and any years to follow. Mr. Casper said this would allow my children not to have to pay maintenance fees.  

“You are really passing your children a bill.  We have a new program if you reach me in November to let me know what you did not use. Diamond will buy them back at $.30 for that year only to, ‘put them back in the kitty’. We need the points because we can sell them to other people who need them.” He illustrated the money we would be paid on a piece of paper.  “What are you waiting for? This is a no brainer,” he said. Mr. Casper convinced me to return to the US Collection the 20,000 points I had transferred in Hawaii 2015 due to beach erosion. I purchased an additional 30,000 points. I now owned 115,000 points.

In November 2016 I called Rick Casper to inform him I had 80,000 points I wished to cash in so that I would receive $24,000 (at 30 cents per point) as Mr. Casper illustrated during our sales presentation.  However, he denied any knowledge of any such arrangement. I explained I had a guest with me at the time, S L, who heard everything he said.  .

Mr. Casper said the reason for the 30 cent per point program was due to the sale of Diamond to Apollo. Mr. Casper said Mr. Cloobeck wanted to do something for members who owned over 100,000 points to show his appreciation so he included the 30 cent per point program in the terms of the Apollo buyout.  SL and I clearly remember this conversation

My current loan payment at the time of the presentation was $1,650 per month. Mr. Casper multiplied that by 12 totaling $19,800 in payments annually plus $14,000 per annum in maintenance fees or $33,880 for annual maintenance fees and loan payments combined. He divided this figure by 12 resulting in $2,816 per month. In the 50,000 additional points Mr. Casper offered, he stated it would only cost an additional $400 per month or $4,800 per year. If I sold back the additional 50,000 points at 30 cents per point I would receive a check back for $15,000.

As stated previously, when I contacted Rick Casper to sell back 80,000 points, he acted as if he did not know what I was talking about. I own a truck leasing business and S is a secondary school teacher. In no way did we misunderstand the figures above.  

There was undue pressure to open a Barclaycard. I explained that I did not need an additional credit card. Rick Casper insisted I open a Barclaycard. I feel the Barclaycard is part of the strategy used to play out what I consider to be a con. 

I then spoke with Dan Percy and then Seth Johnson. I thought Mr. Johnson and I were close to a resolution when he suddenly stopped responding to me.   

At a meeting in Palm Springs, CA between Christmas and New Year’s 2016, we met with someone who seemed to be an ombudsman about the poor accommodation we had been assigned. During the course of our meeting I mentioned Rick Casper. She closed her book and said, “This meeting is over.”  I asked several times why and she finally said Rick Casper was under investigation.

I want to return to the 50,500 points I originally owned prior to the deceitful sales. I was not unhappy with Diamond until the deception started.

8 The first Monarch complaint I read in 2015 back in the day when I thought the Cancun Resort was in Cancun.

Burns

Former DRI CEO David Palmer’s friend from ADW Capital, recommended Diamond’s stock because there is no secondary market. This is a mock interview I published after reading the above complaint, shortly before I received an executive perk agreement leaked to us about how Diamond founder and former CEO Stephen Cloobeck was allowed, as a perk, 50 hours use of the most expensive aircraft in the DRI fleet with the flight crew, for non-business use. Last time we checked, Mr. Cloobeck is running for Nevada Governor, lauded for donating $400,000 to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-across-atlantic/

Leon Black, founder of Apollo Global Management, is worth $6.5 billion, according to Bloomberg. David Palmer earned $19 million in two years, a small portion of the wealth generated for his family during his tenure as DRI CEO.  As a former stockbroker and financial planner, I have nothing against generating great wealth, but not like this.

Diamond’s response to the six military who say they were defrauded: Free tickets for military members for their next event.

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

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to December’s first Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker examines Non-Disclosure Agreements in timeshare and should they be permitted. But first we have a look at what has been in the news in Europe.

Last month we ran the article on the court case involving Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they both pleaded guilty to some very serious charges at Birmingham Magistrates court. Their case has been sent to the Crown Court for sentencing in January, it has now been reported that they will be back in court on 15 December. Whether they will be sentenced then we will have to wait and see, but if they are, they may be having Christmas dinner behind bars.

Yesterday we published an article with an opposing view of the Los Claveles saga, this has prompted some rather heated comments. It would seem that each side is accusing each other of telling lies, this is not the way forward, there will always be a difference of opinion, just because one person does not agree does not make it a lie!

Just having opposing views does not mean you cannot work together, it is your resort and that is what counts not the bickering or personal animosities.

 

The courts once again have been busy, with no less than three Supreme Court ruling this week.

tribunal-supremo

After publishing last Friday’s article it was announced that the Supreme Court had made another ruling against Silverpoint, the court awarded the client over £42,000, plus £3,000 which is double the deposit paid within the 14 day cooling off period. The client will also receive back their legal fees and legal interest.

On Monday 27 November, the Supreme Court again ruled against Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void and awarding over £23,000 including the return of legal fees and interest.

On the same day they issued another sentence against Silverpoint. The contract was declared null and void with the return of more than £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

It was the turn of the Court of First Instance in Tenerife on Tuesday 28 November to issue a sentence against Silverpoint, the judge following the Supreme Court rulings ordered the return of over £11,000 and declared the contract null and void.

On Wednesday 29 November the Tenerife Courts again found against Silverpoint with the return of £11,000 and the contracts declared null and void.

The same day from Madrid the Supreme Court announced yet another ruling against Silverpoint, contract declared null and void with the return of £7,000 plus legal fees and interest.

Other cases this week saw rulings from other courts around Spain which included the return of all payments and contracts being declared null and void against Anfi, Blue Bay and Puerto Calma

Now just to rub it in, as if Dominic and Stephanie O’Reilly havn’t got enough problems the list also included a sentence against EZE Group!

The total amount being returned to clients this week alone is a staggering 403,336.25€

All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, with this week’s Supreme Court rulings bringing their total to 74, another record for the legal history books!

law

So on with this Friday’s letter

Timeshare Non-Disclosure Agreements

When they are fair and when they are not

 cloud

By Irene Parker

December 1, 2017

High school civics classes must be having interesting and lively class discussions about American politics today. Sexual harassment accusations have taken over the media and are raising questions about the damage caused by non-disclosure agreements (NDA). Sexual harassment settlements require the victim sign an NDA agreeing not to disclose what happened.

New Jersey lawmakers are proposing NDAs be banned in cases of sexual harassment. As NJ.Com reported, “Corporate boards of directors keep on approving settlements to cover executives who then go on to commit the same offense.”

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/10/harvey_weinstein_scandal_has_nj_dems_ready_to_ban.html

Timeshare members should lobby for a similar prohibition, especially when a member receives nothing in return after surrendering timeshare vacation points that can easily cost $100,000 or more. Out of 220 timeshare complaints voiced by our readers against multiple developers, 115 allege they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch, some just days after purchasing. Members have reported on the many ways sales agents and their companies can avoid the rescission or cancellation period. Especially in these cases, an NDA seems harsh.

The most common allegations of deceit reported by our readers include:

  •  The ability to sell or rent vacation points
  •  The ability to pay maintenance fees with points
  •  The need to always buy more points in order to have adequate availability
  •  Agents from the same company accusing each other of selling the member the wrong product. The member is told to buy more points to change from one product to the next only to be told by the next agent, they still bought the wrong points! The member is required to sign an NDA even when all they did was buy more points.    

One lawyer I spoke with, who asked not to be identified, said he is shocked by the use of NDAs in timeshare. He explained that as a litigator he saw large settlements awarded without a non-disclosure, but in timeshare even members who receive nothing in return for surrendering vacation points must sign an NDA.

When Inside Timeshare publishes an article about a member’s complaint, we no longer feature the article if the resort helps the member resolve their issue. We do maintain a complete list of all member articles for regulators and law enforcement and have compiled a 90 page complaint summary. With over 200 complaints, patterns emerge. Repeated complaints against certain sales agents point to repeating offenders. Comparing notes with law firms across the country, we have learned certain timeshare sales agents are household names at their offices as well.

Inside Timeshare published Deneice’s article September 29, 2017.

lady

 Inside Timeshare has received 23 reader complaints concerning Diamond Resort’s Las Vegas sales centers. Deneice Vargas alleges she was fraudulently up-sold in Las Vegas. Eight of the members reported a positive outcome working with Diamond Resorts to resolve their complaint.  

Initially, the DRI advocacy agent Deneise worked with seemed to agree with Deniece and had asked for supporting medical documentation about her husband Louis’s diagnosis of Bell’s palsy. Relieved, Deneice submitted the information only to learn the customer service agent who had been helping her quit and the new agent seemed to dismiss Bell’s palsy as if it were a common cold. I personally felt the loss because the hospitality agent who quit called me about my complaint over two years ago. We did not always agree, but I felt she had a moral compass.   

Deneice reached out to us recently to let us know how things were going. She was shocked to receive a call from one of Diamond Resort’s advocacy hospitality agents. According to Deneice, when DRI Consumer Advocates are not advocating, they make collection calls. “They called at 6:50 AM! Isn’t there a law that says you can’t do collection calls outside of normal business hours? I suspect the advocacy department called demanding payment because I was not answering the phone from the collection agents,” said Deneice.    

If there were no loan, I’m confident DRI would allow Deneice to surrender her points for resale, but Deneice’s situation is complicated by her allegations of deceit and bait and switch and the outstanding loan. We reached out to Diamond for comment, but there was no response. Deneice’s original article:  

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-21/

If Deneice’s resort does decide to help her, she will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, agreeing not to say anything disparaging against her resort. One benefit (for our advocacy efforts) is that Deneice will not have to sign an NDA if she forecloses. We lose a lot of advocates because of the NDA. I’ve gotten to know Deneice and feel she will be of great benefit to our team of core advocates determined to stop or at least reduce the “pitching of heat” prevalent in timeshare today, bolstered by points based programs that offer easy deception. One of our advocates is a Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover.

As a non-lawyer, I often rely on NOLO for legal advice. An added benefit of NOLO is somehow they prevent timeshare exit scam artists from posting ads all over their articles.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/nondisclosure-agreements-29630.html

When I looked up nondisclosure agreement on NOLO, the site connected me to Richard Stim. I submitted this question to Mr. Stim at http://dearrichblog.blogspot.com/

I write for Inside Timeshare. We are receiving a flood of timeshare complaints. If someone who feels they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, spending $95,000 for a timeshare, convinces the resort to take the timeshare back with nothing in return, should they have to sign an NDA? Thank you for your help.   

ballchain

What property would anyone buy, be it a boat, home or car, financing a loan at 12% to 18%, knowing the product they were buying could not be sold?  Not one of our 220 readers knew, at the time of purchase, they could not sell their timeshare. There is a limited secondary market for some timeshares. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out how your timeshare fares on the secondary market or if you are stuck with a product you don’t want, can’t afford, and can’t sell.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Thank goodness for Social Media. Here are some self-help member support groups offering good advice and a shoulder to cry one when one finds themselves caught in a timeshare trap.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all who contribute to these articles, they are certainly bringing new information to members / owners in the world of timeshare.

Inside Timeshare once again reminds all readers to do their due diligence when deciding which companies to do business with, as always, doing your homework will prevent the loss of your hard earned cash. If you need help in checking who to trust contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good relaxing weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

 

stop press 1

Just as we were about to publish, this came in from the Supreme Court in Madrid, another Silverpoint contract declared null and void with this particular client being awarded over £90,000 plus legal fees and interest. That is now 75, yes, 75 rulings from Spains Highest Court!

After publishing this also came in.

The High Court in Tenerife found against Silverpoint yet again. The judge has declared this contract null and void with the return of over £74,000 plus legal interest.

 

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s that time of the week again, so welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds. This article is from Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer, with the introduction from our very own Irene Parker. But as usual a roundup from Europe.

It has been a very busy week in the courts again with many case being heard, with sentence still to be issued by the judge but there have been a few announced.

gavela

On Monday there were two announcements, the first was the judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Anfi, once again the contract was declared null and void, the client in this case will be returned over 12,000€ plus legal interest. The courts are certainly sticking to the letter of the law.

In the second case that was announced, the Court of First Instance in Tenerife found against Silverpoint (Resort Properties). In this case the judge found that the contract was in breach of the timeshare law 42/98 in that it exceeded the 50 years that is allowed, this should have also been explained to the customer before signing.

The judge declared the contract null and void, ordering Silverpoint to pay the client over £59,000 plus legal interest.

The following day, Tuesday, another sentence against Anfi was announced by the Judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. Another contract was declared null and void, with Anfi being ordered to return over 26,000€ plus legal interest.

Back in September Petchey Leisure (now MGM Muthu) was ordered to repay over 16,000€ and declared the contract null and void, by the High Court in Tenerife. The client in that case has now had the money transferred to their bank account.

On Thursday, there were three court sentences announced, Once again Anfi have been ordered to return over 20.000€ plus legal interest, this was by the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. The judge also declared the contract null and void.

In Tenerife the Court of First Instance declared a Silverpoint contract null and void, ordering the return of over 30,000€ plus legal interest.

In the High Court in Tenerife, Regency Resorts was ordered to return £35,200 plus an extra £35,200 as double the deposit taken in the cooling off period, which is forbidden by law. This particular client will now be receiving £70,400 plus legal fees and legal interest. A nice Christmas present for this client!

Today as we this article was being prepared for publishing the following news was issued in a press release:

The Supreme Court in Madrid issued another damning sentence against Silverpoint, the Court ordered the return of the full purchase price plus double the deposit and all legal fees. The contract was also declared null and void. In this case the client will be receiving over £105,000.

All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, who are certainly at the forefront in the field of timeshare law.

cla-brochure

Inside Timeshare is still receiving many enquiries regarding “claims” companies and “law firms” contacting owners with the promise that they have cases and can get their money back. Many of these readers don’t even own in Spain, or even upgraded in Spain since the law came into place in 1999, so how can these cases go to the Spanish Courts?

Some of these are also being told that they pay for a relinquishment, then the claim will be filed on a no win no fee basis. This can only mean one thing, an attempt to claim under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974. Another aspect to this is the client will also be told at the meeting the only way they can do this is by purchasing another product! Sounds like the classic “bait and switch”!

There is also more news which at present we cannot publish as it has not been verified, so that is it from Europe, now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds – The Developer vs the Member

wall st

By Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer

November 17, 2017

On Monday Inside Timeshare published an article comparing hedge fund involvement in Puerto Rico to hedge fund involvement in timeshare. Today we examine further how debt affects timeshare with help from Economics Professor Michael Nuwer and private equity investor Justin Morgan.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-american-perspective-comparison/

Introduction by Irene Parker

As a Diamond Resorts member, I have access to information I would not have about other timeshare companies, so once again Diamond is used as an example with help from Michael Nuwer, also a DRI member, and Justin Morgan, a former DRI member, to explain the mechanics of timeshare inventory valuation and timeshare debt.

I asked Inside Timeshare Australian Contributor Justin Morgan how a company like Diamond can have a $2.2 billion dollar valuation when the entire inventory of points is worthless to the members, given so many complaints about the lack of a secondary market. Of course, there is value to staying at a property, but for discussion purposes, timeshares are a liability on an individual member’s net worth statement. Inside Timeshare has received 196 timeshare complaints from our readers against four major developers. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch. I have interviewed many families devastated, sometimes just weeks after purchase.

In an article I wrote for TheStreet, I expressed concern over inventory valuation irregularities that delayed DRI’s second quarter 2016 earnings report, the last public report before being taken private. Diamond previously reported 11 quarters of consecutive robust earnings growth. After announcing the delay, just after the Apollo acquisition announcement, earnings had to be restated from 2014 going forward.

“After the correction, the change resulted in a decrease in net income of $5.6 million for 2015 and a $1.3 million decrease for the first quarter, in each case from amounts originally reported, according to the second-quarter release. Significantly, second-quarter net income decreased $10.1 million or 28.5% to $25.5 million year over year, compared with a first quarter increase of $8.4% or 32.6% to $34.4 million, prior to the restatement.”

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13702895/1/diamond-resorts-international-s-second-quarter-earnings-reversal-is-worrisome.html

Justin Morgan’s analysis

The whole industry itself uses some quite questionable inventory valuation methods that may be designed, according to some, to target more the financing arrangements that were the traditional model in the industry when GMAC and others were underwriting timeshare sales departments. This is why private hedge fund equity in the industry has somewhat caused a shift in thinking. If private equity is funding the model based upon equity vs loan models, the capital structures underneath begin to change. The same accounting reports will still be drawn upon to make sense of the numbers, but let’s not forget that inventory valuations do have a bit of leeway to move. Even financial reporting itself can diverge from standard reporting models, but it usually is flagged as a change in accounting methodology that would have otherwise tipped off Apollo.

Like Enron, it depends upon who’s looking, and who might be wanting to look away to get a deal done. Even if Apollo did know, it doesn’t mean they’d fess to the knowledge of spotting an irregularity if they believed they were able to profit in the end, and I believe that Michael Nuwer showed the sort of cap structure that Apollo introduced. It largely turned the debt into the membership, so whilst Apollo may have even noticed non-standard valuations, it might have only forced a better price to come from Diamond vs flagging the issue or walking away from the overall deal. Clearly, Apollo are their own beast in these type of private equity deals which reap profits and shift debt restructuring unwittingly into club members. This is a bigger issue. It’s like taking a loan out in someone else’s name and handing them the bill after you’ve taken what you want for the deal. Club members were only ever at Apollo-DRI’s mercy after this.

There are definitely some important and significant value-implied shifts from these numbers since the street uses earnings to make their valuations, but the valuation of inventory is an area that is somewhat suitable itself. The industry bodies know how to make it work and actually fought to use non-standard inventory models. But I’ve not gauged for differences between the pre-order hedge fund industry and the one we’re seeing rise out of the seas today.

I have looked with horror upon the entry of these private hedge funds because I know that they have little interest in the product itself. They are only in it to devour the membership of as much as they can get, and given the legal models, that could be the scariest evolution to date. At least cryptocurrencies attempt to establish some monetary supply rules, but timeshare clubs know that they can just keep raising budgets legally to cover their required rates of returns.

In an industry that generally looks for 30% per annum returns as a rule of thumb, that’s going to cause some high maintenance fee jokes in the future. But I remember the old DRI hiking maintenance close to 25% circa 2007 and then again in 2009. They first blamed a strong economy, whilst the second blamed the weak economy. More like a satyr blowing hot and cold in the one breath! But the disturbing thing to me is how Apollo financed this whole arrangement. They shifted the debt onto the members. They made their money from the start…The rest is just cream…The debt which now pays the Apollonian entities is the debt Apollo created and lumped into the membership at the financing stage.

We must be clear. They created the debt specifically to land it on membership; so really, it is as if the DRI members paid a good chunk of the deal. If the Attorneys General don’t see this, then they’ll miss what chicanery has been done here.

Michael Nuwer

Diamond reports show increasing levels of bad debt accompanied by decreasing membership since the peak in 2013.

chart1

Membership is down 9% since 2013

chart2

One thing that is not clear to me is the economic value of points. It often appears that a developer sells the points (say 10,000 points) for, say, $20,000. But, the next day, if I (the owner) try to sell those points in the secondary market, they are worth, maybe, $1,000. (If Bluegreen points; DRI points are worth $0.) The economist in me thinks the developer originally sold me points for $1,000 plus a club membership for the remaining $19,000. Thus, if my points are foreclosed and resold for the full $20,000, only $1,000 is the value of the points.

So, the question here is: what is the developer selling. Is the sale just vacation points or is the sale a bundle that includes points plus other stuff? I’ve read my DRI contract many times and still can’t tell what it specifically covers.

So what happens when someone buys timeshare points?

Let’s look at this example:

Say Diamond makes a sale for $30,000. The buyer might make a down payment of 20% or $6,000. The remaining $24,000 is a loan. Diamond now has a short term financing problem. They have $6,000 in cash and $24,000 in a non-liquid asset. But Diamond has immediate operating costs. A bit more than $15,000 from the sale is needed for advertising, marketing, and commission expenses. The carrying cost of the inventory must also be paid. Additionally, Diamond faces G&A costs (general and administrative) which need to be paid. All of these are current expenses, but Diamond only has the cash down-payments to cover them.

To pay current expenses, Diamond borrows money from a bank (the jargon is a “warehouse facility”). This facility is a credit line agreement, and, just like my credit card, Diamond’s credit line has a limit. Before Apollo, Diamond’s credit line was $100 million with Capital One.

In short: Diamond must borrow money from a bank to cover the current year’s expenses while it waits 7-10 years to get re-paid on the outstanding loans made to members.

Securitization of the outstanding loans is a way to oil, and thereby speed-up, the lending machine. Once Diamond reaches its $100 million credit limit, it will not be able to offer more loans for the purchase of points. Thus, to overcome this limit, the company bundles outstanding loans into a trust fund and sells shares in that fund as an Asset-Backed Security. The proceeds from selling these shares are used to pay down the credit line and Diamond’s perpetual loan machine continues.

Irene asked how Apollo Global Management will fare in their purchase of DRI. Will the restatement of inventory valuation have an impact?

DRI EBITDA in 2015 was $385 million and thus the valuation multiple ($2200/385) is a mere 5.7. Apollo got the company for a steal. If they can spruce it up and get 10x, the valuation will be $3.8 billion. There’s Apollo’s 30% profit.

trust earned

Thank you to Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan for their analysis. I have nothing against private equity, but extraordinary investment returns at the expense of timeshare members or Puerto Ricans is not acceptable if so many complaint allegations are true. In addition to 192 Inside Timeshare readers who are timeshare members, I have interviewed ten current and former timeshare sales agents that all confirm predatory sales practices are widespread in this industry. There have been several recent investigations and settlements by Attorneys General including New York, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arizona, Tennessee and Colorado as well as lawsuits too numerous to mention. It is our hope developers will confront the problem and work with member complaints to improve the quality of timeshare sales today rather than continue to deny such practices exists. Contact Inside Timeshare or an Advocacy Facebook if you have timeshare concerns.   

Timeshare self-help Facebook groups

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to Justin and Michael, also to Irene for her introduction. This week Irene has been very busy dealing with the many enquiries we have received from US owners / members. Within an hour of publishing Tuesdays article, we received 3 pleas of help, these are sent to Irene who then makes contact with the relevant advice and which of our advocacy team can help. Keep up the great work US Team.

If you need any information or help with any timeshare matter and don’t know where to turn, Inside Timeshare is here to help.

Also remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that either contacts you or you find in an advert. This last one rings very true for one UK reader, She found an advert in the Royal British Legion Magazine for a company that said it could help with a claim. Being in the British legion magazine she believed it would be genuine, well we all would! Unfortunately, adverts are not checked for authenticity, they are sold by a marketing company to pay the cost of publication, the same is also true for any newspaper or magazine. So the it proves that you need to do your homework!

On that note, Friday is here, the weekend is once again upon us, so have a great weekend and we will be back on Monday.

friday dog

 

vulture

The Tuesday Slot: An American Perspective and Comparison.

I can’t speak for Americans, but I imagine EU timeshare members, and even lawyers are not aware of the impact vulture lending by hedge funds has on impoverished Puerto Ricans and timeshare members. Not familiar with the term, my research uncovered the term private equity used to be called in the 80s venture capital and a venture capitalist was called a vulture capitalist due to targeting extraordinary returns for their investors. Fast forward 20 years and “Vulture” Funding in Puerto Rico is being talked about in American Financial news.   

puerto rico

It took me a while to “connect the dots” as Irene says in her article. The majority of complaints Inside Timeshare received concern rising maintenance fees. Legacy owners are particularly affected. Legacy owners are timeshare owners who have not given up their deed to convert to the points based program.

Diamond Resorts does not build new properties. Their strategy is to buy existing properties. Members tell us they are told they have to give up their deeded weeks and convert to points. This is not true. Some contacting Inside Timeshare report maintenance fees doubling or tripling after their resort is acquired. While Diamond will insist to owners, such maintenance fees increases are necessary to bring the resort up to standards, investor conference calls told a different story, explaining that 15% is added onto every budget line item after acquisition, affording investors a guaranteed and immediate 15% profit.

The Finn Law Group questioned the increases in this lawsuit filed against Diamond owned Bali Condominiums.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

Not everyone has a background in private equity like Justin Morgan, economics like Michael Nuwer or an MBA like Irene Parker. Justin and Michael expressed their concerns about private equity and what is necessary for investors to achieve a 30% or better return.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-australia-no-read-correctly/

While explosive returns are often achieved in starting up a company like Apple or Amazon, expecting 30% or better returns out of timeshare may require tactics like those expressed by our readers, claiming they are being crushed by high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards.

Let us know if Irene’s connecting of the dots makes sense to you.  Now to Irene’s article.

What does Puerto Rico’s Debt and Timeshare Debt have in Common?

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide. (Hedgeclippers)

Witch

Part I – Puerto Rico and Timeshare Debt

Is Apollo Global Management involved with both?

By Irene Parker

Part II Friday November 17  

The Effect of Debt and Inventory Evaluations on Timeshare

By Contributors Justin Morgan, Australia and Michael Nuwer, US

November 14

Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, which aired November 6, described how Puerto Ricans are being crushed under the weight of debt orchestrated by hedge or “Vulture Funds”. Similarly, many timeshare members struggle with high interest rate timeshare loans and higher interest rate credit cards. It’s not surprising to find out hedge funds are involved with both Puerto Rico and timeshare debt.  

http://www.foodandwine.com/news/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown-puerto-rico

FOX Business reporter Maria Bartiromo interviewed Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey April 2017.  The Milken Institute was prominently displayed during the interview. Connecting the dots, Michael Milken, formerly known as the “King of Junk” in the 80s because of his role in a junk bond scandal, worked at the brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. According to Wikipedia, Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black founded Apollo Global Management after DBL declared bankruptcy, having incurred $650 million in fines. Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo, is managed by an affiliate of affiliate of funds.

Apollo Global Management, LLC is an American private equity firm, founded in 1990 by former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black. The firm specializes in leveraged buyout transactions and purchases of distressed securities involving corporate restructuring, special situations, and industry consolidations. (Wikipedia)

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-drexel-burnham-oral-history/

Debt and Michael Milken are as synonymous as debt and timeshare.

While Mr. Milken is known for his generosity, he is also known to have served 22 months in jail for securities fraud. Mr. Black emerged from the DBL bankruptcy unscathed, today worth $5.1 billion according to Hedgeclippers, $6.3 billion according to Forbes 2017 ranking (Hedgeclippers footnote link 85)   

Only Bloomberg subscribers can read the article linked below, but the headlines speak volumes.

Munis Meet Milken as Hedge Funds Dictate Puerto Rico Terms

Laura J. Keller

June 29, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT Updated on June 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

Puerto Rico is getting a thorough introduction to Michael Milken’s junk-bond world as it increasingly relies on some of the financial industry’s most aggressive players to solve its crippling financial troubles.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-29/munis-meet-milken-as-hedge-funds-dictate-puerto-rico-debt-terms

Vulture activity in Puerto Rico: Excerpts from Hedgeclippers

http://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-17-hedge-fund-billionaires-in-puerto-rico/

Hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have swooped into Puerto Rico during a fast-moving economic crisis to prey on the vulnerable island. Several groups of hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have bought up large chunks of Puerto Rican debt at discounts, pushed the island to borrow more, and are driving towards devastating austerity measures.

Known as “vulture funds,” these investors have followed a similar game plan in other debt crises, in countries such as Greece and Argentina.

argentina

The spoils they ultimately seek are not just bond payments, but structural reforms and privatization schemes that give them extraordinary wealth and power – at the expense of everyone else.

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide.

Apollo Global Management, the third largest US-based private equity firm, has not yet been reported to be a member of the Ad Hoc Group looking to collectively pressure the Puerto Rican government, but press reports have indicated that Apollo, along with Fortress Investment Group and Aurelius Capital, are looking to take on a “more activist role” as the debt restructuring continues.

I think we can add timeshare to the list after Greece and Argentina given our reader responses and Diamond’s increased loan loss provision. Moody’s has placed Diamond on a downgrade watch after the company raised its loan loss provision to 18.4% March 31, 2017, from 12.9% the prior year.

The review for downgrade is a result of Diamond Resorts’ high leverage — Moody’s adjusted debt/EBITDA was about 7.0x for the last 12 month period ended March 31, 2017 — and increasing loan loss reserves which will make it difficult for the company to reduce leverage. Diamond Resorts, and other timeshare companies, has increased its loan loss reserve over the past year as a result of an increase in timeshare owner defaults, which to a large degree have been initiated by third party activities. Diamond Resorts’ loan loss provision increased to 18.4% of gross Vacation Interests sales at March 31, 2017, from 12.9% in the prior year. Should the loan loss reserve trend not improve, the company will have difficulty lowering its leverage below our trigger for a downgrade (below 6.5x).

https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-places-Diamond-Resorts-ratings-on-review-for-downgrade-including–PR_370606

Of note is the blame placed on third party activities, which includes fraudulent transfer companies and resale agents, some posting ads above our Inside Timeshare articles as soon as we publish. Ignored is deceit on the front end of the sale, despite numerous Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits too numerous to mention, as well as the severely limited or sometimes non-existent secondary market. Without a secondary market, a timeshare contract is worth nothing the moment the contract is signed and it is not uncommon for a timeshare to cost over $100,000.

Timeshare members struggling to meet loan and credit card payments can relate to those suffering in Puerto Rico. Inside Timeshare has heard from 192 of our readers of which 183 are from Diamond Resort members. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch, locked into loans and credit card debt they can’t afford, owning a perpetual vacation product they can’t sell.

Holding timeshare members hostage is a short term profit plus for Apollo’s investors, but is squeezing money out of middle class families at 12% to 24% sustainable? Not one of our readers was aware of the difficulty selling points due to lack of buyers. Contract language doesn’t help because the contract states “you can sell your points” but the part about secondary market restrictions and lack of buyers is not included, at least not in the contract I signed. Timeshare companies will either take back points or foreclose, reselling the same points over and over, described as a hamster wheel by one former Diamond sales agent.

money man

They say history repeats itself, but I would have never imagined, as a former Drexel Burnham Lambert client, the subsequent Apollo firm would buy my vacation plan twenty years later. This, in addition to reading so many online complaints posted by timeshare members who seemed to have nowhere to turn, motivated me to join Charles Thomas and Inside Timeshare in an effort to provide factual timeshare information and to warn the general public to do due diligence before buying any timeshare. I felt there was a need to go a step beyond helpful Facebook posts to warn members away from fraudulent listing and transfer agents, steering them towards regulatory and law enforcement agencies, if they feel they were a victim of a bait and switch.    

On Friday Inside Timeshare Contributors Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer will explain in Part II their take on the role private equity plays in timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has already heard from Diamond members worried about special assessments after this season’s catastrophic hurricanes, especially St. Maarten. They fear a repeat of the Poipu water damage assessments that resulted in a class action lawsuit.

http://advantagevacation.com/the-point-at-poipu-angry-owners-file-lawsuit-against-diamond-resorts/

As timeshare members brace for 2018 maintenance fees, Inside Timeshare will be here to help those who have questions, given the perpetual contract that still exists in the US, along with member sponsored Advocacy Facebooks.

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/

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

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

not alone

I don’t know about you the readers, but my head is spinning after this, finance and economics have never been my strong point, but it does look a little clearer now, so thank you Irene.

If you need any help or advice about any timeshare matter, or just about any company you may be thinking of doing business with or that has contacted you, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

 

letter from america

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