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letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s time for another Friday’s Letter from America, with the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, many owners and members have been asking how the damage affects them. Mike Finn of Finn Law Group explains this, with an introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

Michael-D-Finn2
Michael D Finn

But as usual we start with some news from Europe, it has been a little quiet on the court front this week, with only three announcements made public.

All three involve the Tenerife based company Silverpoint, the first was at the High Court where the judge declared a contract null & void. He also ordered the return of over £40,000 plus legal interest. As usual the contract was over 50 years, deposits paid within the cooling off period and the contract did not contain the correct information required by law.

The second case against Silverpoint was from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again this court upheld its previous judgements. The client in this case receives over 104,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest. They are also timeshare free.

The third case was another Supreme Court judgement against Silverpoint, this officially confirms the number of rulings by this court at 66. Again the contract was declared null and void, with the client awarded over £89,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

Many readers this week have been contacting Inside Timeshare about ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation and off course the “new” Mark Rowe product Jive Hippo. (Not a name that conjures up confidence). Not to forget he also owns the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association) and TimeshareTalk.

The comments from these readers have not been what you might call promising. Remember these companies are all owned by one person, who himself is an ex timeshare sales manager (Silverpoint / Resort Properties), turned gamekeeper. As with any company you may contemplate any business with, it pays to check, check and check again before you commit.

Amador Galeca Abogados, have been at it again, this time Andrew Cooper was named as the director of Personal Travel Group. Again he is pleading guilty. Now remember, Personal Travel Group was the successor to Incentive Leisure Group, owned by the late Gary Lee, of Timelinx and Designer Way Vacation Club fame. His partner Kim Bambrough also ran the call center at the old ILG office in Fuengirola, so Andrew Cooper had nothing to do with it all.

On the subject of this “FAKE” law firm, last week we reported that one reader managed to get their money back which they paid via bank transfer. It turns out that their banks fraud department managed to get this back from Deutsche Bank, where it was paid into the account of the “Procurador” Graham Ingum Gorrin.

We have also been informed that Sutton Hall have placed the information supplied to our reader on their members website, at least now the word is getting out.

So on with this week’s article.

How do Natural Disasters Affect my Timeshare?

natural disaster

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/what-if-timeshare-resort-suffers-damage

October 20, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

Given the severity of recent hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has been receiving questions from concerned timeshare owners and members.

Of note are the relevant differences that come into play for right to use point programs compared to fixed week timeshares. Fixed week timeshares are defined as real estate, so the fixed week owner has the same problem as the owner of a primary residence. If a primary residence is demolished you may not be able to occupy the premise. Alternative lodging must be arranged and rarely does insurance make the owner whole again.

Do right to use point programs offer more protection?

In some ways, I think yes. The advantage of a fixed week timeshare is that you know what you own. You can see, feel and touch the week purchased. In a disaster however, that same benefit can work against the owner.

I contacted a team member at one resort. The company has property on St. Martin. The company’s right to use point owners are being refunded points for forfeited stays, but the company’s fixed week owners must book in other locations through an exchange service, and are unable to book St. Martin until 2020. Still, fixed week owners are fortunate to have this option because the owner on the other side of the exchange would not be able to stay at the owner’s demolished resort. Overall, industry insiders I contacted feel point members may have a layer of protection over fixed week owners when a disaster affects a single resort.

Does this mean right to use programs are better or safer overall?

Finn

Depending on vacation goals and lifestyles, right to use points may be the right choice. The Federal Trade Commission offers good advice. Of the points presented, the most important pieces of advice are:

  • Research the track record of the seller, developer, and management company before you buy. You also can search online for complaints,
  • Is everything the salesperson promised written into the contract? If not, walk away from the sale. (A standard resort rebuttal is, “You should have asked for anything of importance to you to be added to the contract.),
  • Don’t act on impulse or under pressure. (This is easier said than done, but better to forfeit a few perks than be saddled with a vacation plan you don’t want, can’t use or afford, with no exit and rising maintenance fees.)

This next FTC point is the least helpful as, according to complaints received by Inside Timeshare, sales agents often offer to be your vacation advisor or counselor until death you part, but many members tell us the person they were told to contact never returned phone calls, emails or text messages.

  • Get the name and phone number of someone at the company who can answer your questions — before, during, and after the sales presentation, and after your purchase.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group answers the question,

Finn-Law--Main-Logo

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

Many, many timeshare resorts are located in areas where terrible storms and other “acts of God” happen with some frequency, such as Florida or the Caribbean – both of which have suffered extensively this hurricane season.

As business owners and locals rebuild and recover in the face of a cataclysmic storm or other disastrous event, timeshare owners looking on from spots across the country have their own unique worry: Namely, how they will be affected if their “home” timeshare resort suffers major damage.

There is a lot to unpack here! In our experience, though, timeshare consumers who are worried about their resort are predominantly concerned with two things –

  • How their ability to make reservations will be affected, and
  • Whether they can expect to pay more in assessments and fees.

To the first point, it is quite likely that your ability to use a timeshare resort may be affected by damage. Facing a loss of property or a labor shortage (as employees stay home for their own safety), many resorts may well be forced to close or suspend service temporarily, affecting the plans of those who already had reservations or who were planning on making them.

The second major issue that concerns many consumers: Whether or not they’ll feel the effects of a storm or other natural disaster in their pocketbook. Assessments and fees for repair costs will vary from resort to resort, based on the unique circumstances at play.

Certainly, though, timeshare consumers would be wise to remember the words of the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen, who notes:

“In some cases, owners could be asked to pay fees to offset repair costs if some damages don’t meet insurance thresholds or there are large deductibles that need to be met first.”

Let’s expand upon that. Should a resort be damaged, the bulk of the costs of repairs should be covered by insurance; Property Owners Associations (POAs) also have reserve funds designated for special situations (both of these are paid for, at least in part, by owners’ annual maintenance fees).

With that said, it’s important to remember that insurance rarely covers everything, and that the POA reserve is often insufficient to take care of the difference. As a result, timeshare owners will often end up paying something more out of pocket in the event of resort damage, be it for debris removal, landscaping services, or other costs that arise in the wake of a weather event.

Resorts and owners will be affected on a case-by-case basis. Following the massive fires earlier this year in Tennessee, for instance, many interval owners were relieved to hear that they likely wouldn’t be on the hook for fees after several resorts in the area suffered damage. Other owners will tell you a different story, such as those who “found themselves on the hook for nearly $5,800 in special assessment maintenance fees” after their Hawaiian resort suffered “water intrusion.”

Note from Irene: Mr. Finn is referring to Diamond Resort’s The Point at Poipu Resort and the resulting class action lawsuit filed by owners.

http://www.poipuowners.org/News.html

An important thing to remember

Recuerde

 It’s important to consider that information on matters such as these will be included in the documents you receive at the time of closing. While it may be difficult to parse through the language, taking the time to research your contract and POS documents can only benefit you in the long run.

Have any more questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.

Thank you to Mike Finn for this very interesting article, also a big welcome to Tammy Arkley, who is a book editor and court reporting editor, who will be helping Irene with edits of the US articles.

That is it for this week, remember one thing, always check any company that contacts you or you may be thinking of doing business with, spending time to do your homework with save you thousands in the long term. If you need any help in doing this “homework” contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

weekend

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Update: Litigious Abogados the Fake Family of Lawyers

Well it seems that Inside Timeshare has lost the wager on the name of the director who pleads guilty at court, article published Thursday 21 Sept. In this we said that it would most likely be a Keith Baker or Keith Balker, as that name had been used on many other occasions.

lost bet

Amador Galeca Abogados have come up with a new name,  Andrew Cooper, has this time pleaded guilty in a Spanish Court, for a timeshare bought and located in the United Kingdom!

Firstly, why would a Spanish court be adjudicating on a case that is clearly outside of its jurisdiction?

Secondly, in all the years we have been looking at this industry, we have not known any timeshare company or directors plead guilty to anything. On the contrary, they have always denied any wrongdoing, finding excuses and legal loopholes to wriggle out of it. Well, not quite, back in July 2009, at Reading Magistrates Court, UK, Gary Leigh (ILG) did unexpectedly plead guilty to 11 counts of the most serious charges.

http://www.theolivepress.es/spain-news/2009/07/15/timeshare-conman-convicted/

In our article of 31 July, Keith Balker pleaded pleaded guilty on behalf of Club Class Holidays, could it be as we have been publishing this name for so long they needed a change?

Also the names Keith Baker and Keith Balker are very similar to one of the names of an ILG director Keith Barker. Could this have been a take on that?

deutsche bank

Another question that is puzzling us, is in regards to the bank accounts that are being used, the latest being Deutsche Bank, with the name of the so called Procurator Graham Ingum Gorrin. The question is how on earth are these accounts being opened?

Surely in this day and age they must be doing some kind of security checks, after all when I went to open a new bank account, the documentation and proof of residence was extensive. Is this group that well prepared with all the fake documents to open these accounts or is it the banks are failing in their procedures?

To follow the story from the start, search Litigious Abogados in the search box.

Basic rules on keeping your hard earned money safe

As we have warned before, unless you have instructed a law firm to act on your behalf, then there is no case. The courts do not use outside agencies or companies to contact consumers who may have been victims of fraud. If they do need to contact you they will do so through official channels, not by telephone or email.

The courts do not issue cheques, especially from banks that are no longer in existence such as Banesto.

Spanish Courts will not be dealing with cases which have not been purchased within Spanish jurisdiction, so if your timeshare was purchased outside of Spain, then you do not have a case pending.

The Courts will also not appoint any company to investigate a missing cheque and recoup the money from the bank on your behalf.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs would not be getting involved, they will not contact you by telephone or email.

Do not be fooled by the promises of the huge sums being held and waiting for you to collect, or the very genuine looking paperwork.

Until you are 100% sure that it is genuine do not pay any money, whether it is for procurator fees to lodge the case, taxes, notary fees, or any other reason to release the money.

If you are in doubt and need help in verifying any company that has contacted you with any of these promises, get in touch with Inside Timeshare.

be careful

fraud scam

Litigious Abogados: The Story Moves On.

Over the months Inside Timeshare has been publishing articles and warnings about a very sophisticated and well planned out fraud, operating out of Tenerife, Litigious Abogados and family.

One reader has been taken for thousands, he believed everything he was told, he believed the authenticity of the documents including the fake court papers. But the scam has gone one stage further. But first we’ll go to the beginning.

It started as usual with contact from the fake law firm telling the client that his timeshare resort / company was about to be taken to court, that he could become part of this action as there was a very good case. All it needed was to pay the Procurator fees and his case can be lodged with the court, the case would be going ahead in around a month. (very fast work indeed).

too good

This fee was to be paid to the Procurador Darstun Jilmo Davida, a name we have come across before.

It then turns out there was a groundbreaking ruling against Incentive Leisure Group SL (a company that ceased to exist when Garry Peter Leigh was killed in an accident in July 2010). The director of the company, another name that we have come across in respect of this scam, Keith Balker aka Keith Baker, has pleaded guilty. So now Keith is director of ILG, not bad as he happens to be director of Club la Costa, Diamond, Silverpoint and many others according to this law firm. Certainly a man with his fingers in many pies.  Also as we are very familiar with ILG from the past, there was never any director named Keith Balker.

Now another little twist in this is that according to the fake court document the other defendant, with the director Keith Balker is Club Class Holidays SL, and for those who remember the days of ILG, they were great rivals, yet according to this document they are in bed together!

2nd round

Now, we come to the second part of the scam, in order to release the thousands awarded by the court, tax needs to be paid first, this was duly done and a cheque from the court was now on its way.

The envelope duly arrived, problem is it had been opened and the cheque was missing. Lo and behold another company now contacts the client, Manuel Valentin, they have been appointed by the court to investigate and retrieve the money stolen. Again it turns out it was that unscrupulous Romanian Gang who stole the cheque.

In order for Manuel Valentin to carry out his investigation and get the client his money back, he needs to be paid. Then the scam takes on a new dimension.

The client is now told that he owes property tax on a property he owns in Spain, that his NIE number has expired, so he can’t get the money owed to him until this is all paid and dealt with. But never mind, these lawyers can sort this all out for him, for a fee that is. Another twist to this story is one that has really taken the biscuit, it turns out the client has outstanding fines for a traffic offence! One does wonder how these people would know about that.

The following are some of the new names and bank accounts that have come up with this story.

The Procurador (an old name): Darstun Jilmo Davida, Banca March Arona.

Notario: Roberto Arturo Sanson Banco Sabadell

Ricardo Sannino Bankia

Notario: Yary D, Marco La Caixa

Gina Bulanu Accounts Sabadell

Ricardo Zanino BBVA

Other names that have surfaced:

Juan Portalabo

Paralegal: Ms Sarah Ellingwood

Secretaria de Abogados: Sandra Fonto Bello

Secretaria de Abogados: Lorna Lablub Taza

Departmento Legal: Maria Sanchez Gotera

Lawyer: Jesus Iful

It is important to thoroughly check any company that claims you have a court case, do not be taken in by the sums of money they say is waiting for you. Unless you have instructed a lawyer personally to conduct a case, then there is no case pending, especially in the time scales this lot are looking at. From first contact to conclusion is a matter of 2 months, totally impossible.

If you have been contacted by any firm and want to know if it is genuine contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction. Remember it pays to do your homework!

homework

testimonials2

Testimonials: Fact or Fiction?

I was asked over the weekend if reading testimonials on timeshare resale websites was a good idea. Could they actually be believed? Well there is no simple answer to this question, it really does depend on the company.

 

I have been looking at one website which comes up on a regular basis, sellmytimeshare.tv

sellmytimeshare-logo

Some of the testimonials show photographs of the people writing them, the strange thing is they are at one of the companies offices. This reminded me of how ILG operated when selling the DWVC membership. On this website you don’t just read a copy of the comments, you can also click on a button and view the “Original”. This proved quite fun.

 

http://www.sellmytimeshare.tv/what-we-do/what-our-customers-say?limitstart=0

 

All were written on the same types of note paper, many on paper torn out of a spiral notepad, some on lined paper with a margin, just like you used at school for your essays. All appeared very hurriedly written, it certainly looked like the notes were from those who had just attended a presentation and purchased Monster Credits. “Please write something nice on this piece of paper for me, so my boss can see I´m doing a good job”.

testimonial1

It makes me wonder if those people writing them have seen the website showing their names with the testimonial. Do they still agree with what they have written, or would they retract?

 

So the answer to the question can they be believed, is really down to you and how you check them, personally I don´t believe them, having been in this industry and having seen what goes on has made me very suspicious. For me a testimonial would be from the person once they have returned home, if hand written, on proper paper, like the stuff we used to use “Basildon Bond” not torn from a note pad, then written neatly in the old fashioned way. (do we still do things like that)?

 

Beware the testimonial then, like everything to do with timeshare make your checks, research the company and if in doubt check again. If you require any information on how to do this contact Inside Timeshare, we are here to help and inform.

fakelaw

The Resurrected!

One thing that never surprises me is the number of companies that disappear for a while and then suddenly reappear. One company that seems to have been resurrected are our old friends from Fuengirola, Ramirez & Ramirez Abogados SL.

ramirez1

Around six years ago this company was targeting clients who had dealings with Incentive Leisure Group, purchasing the Designer Way Vacation Club membership. Their pitch at the time was reclaiming the purchase price and promoting a class action against ILG and the cashback scheme. They passed themselves off as a law firm, with a website called specialist-lawyers.com.

 

This company was headed up by one Fabian Marcelo Ramirez, who was also the administrator of several sister companies in the same area peddling the same product. These were Fuengirola Servicios 2002 SL, Key Properties Town Advisory and Greenges SL. Many people had dealings with these smooth talking outfits, all losing very substantial amounts of money.

scacert

Ramirez & Ramirez began to have a field day when the ILG & DWVC operations were closed down by the Office of Fair Trading (UK) in September 2012. Clients were bombarded with calls claiming that a class action was being pursued by Ramirez & Ramirez, or that there were substantial amounts of money being held by the Courts in Malaga which were waiting to be paid out to them.

 

One Genuine Law Firm in Malaga had many dealing with Ramirez & Ramirez, LawBird whose website belegal.com highlighted them for several years, even to the extent that Antonio Flores was taken to court for liable. Ramirez lost the case with the judge actually saying in open court that it was not wrong to call Ramirez a “crook and swindler”

 

http://belegal.com/blog-by-antonio-flores/tag/ramirez-and-ramirez-abogados/

 

Then all of a sudden around June 2013, they disappeared, phone lines no longer working and the website closed down. After a few months, around October 2013, clients began receiving calls and emails from another company offering to help. These emails were signed by one Marcelo Ramirez.

 

Was it the same person, or one of the ex employees with the client list. Personally I think it was Marcelo himself. This didn’t last long as once again it all stopped. But the story is not over.

 

Just recently in the past month Ramirez & Ramirez seems to have come back from the dead. The address given is the same as before, Calle Cordoba no 35 Edif Villa Blanca 1C, 29640, Fuengirola, Malaga. This time all cases they had running have been won and the money is waiting for you. Only a matter of fees to be paid and you can have it back. Oh well, I suppose old Ramirez must be a little short of cash after his holiday!

backdead1

Remember the courts do not operate in this way, and if there are any fees to be paid, why not take them from the awarded amounts and send the remainder to the client. That seems to make more sense. So don’t fall for this smooth talking pitch, Ramirez did not have any cases going to court, they are not abogados / lawyers, they just have a very long track record of duping people out of their money.

 

If you have had any contact with this company recently Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you. Give us your story and we can warn others of any change in this companies pitch.

La Pinta

Is It Resale?

sellmytimeshare-logo

 

On 9th March 2016 the TCA posted a piece by Harriet Cooke of The Sun newspaper, her article from February 2016 was about Sell My Timeshare, a resale website. In the article it stated that 2,250 timeshares had been sold or cancelled by them in 2015.

 

This to me seems very odd, as many people I have spoken to in the past have informed me that they had contacted this company when trying to rid themselves of their timeshares. What then has happened is a meeting has been set up with Glenmore Consultants at one of their offices; Bournemouth, York or Stratford upon Avon.

 

At this meeting the client is then pitched to purchase Monster Credits in order to be rid of their timeshare. These credits can then be used for future holidays, with no time limit, some have even been told they are able to sell the unused credits for a small profit.

 

So in order to be rid of the timeshare the client pays Monster Travel a hefty sum of money in return for credits. This is not a timeshare resale. It reminds me of the ILG DWVC and Club Class meetings.

 

Monster Travel is a registered business, it is part of Hollywood Marketing SLU based in Tenerife. Although according to their web site, from the 3rd March 2016 they have been renamed Monster Group (Travel) SLU.
Keep Reading

bogus

Help! Where do I look?

Over the years I have seen many ways that you the timeshare or holiday club owner has been fleeced of your hard earned cash.

 

Firstly the bogus resale companies taking upfront fees as guarantees, with the promise you would get it refunded when your timeshare has been sold or if they are unable to sell it within a year. Then promptly disappear and reform as a new entity.

 

Then we had the we´ll get rid of your timeshare but to do this you have to join our non existent or never works holiday club. ILG had this well and truly sown up with the wonderful cashback scheme. You received a cashback certificate for the value of your timeshare which was more than you paid to join this new club. No one ever got the promised amount and many never got a thing.

 

After the closure of ILG a firm on the Costa del Sol, Ramirez and Ramirez began fleecing DWVC members, with the promise of legal action to recuperate the money lost. Other firms wanted payments upfront for doing relatively easy claims against credit card companies. Many of these claims failed or were never even instituted.

 

Then after Ramirez was closed down he opened as another company to claim back what clients had paid the firm Ramirez & Ramirez. Obviously using his old data.

 

Now we have the bogus claims companies. These make out that the courts have already seized assets from holiday clubs such as ILG or Club Class and resale companies. The modus operandi here is that you have already been awarded a substantial amount by the courts and this company has been charged with tracing you in order to pay you the money.

payout 1

This sounds very nice. But then there is a small matter of tax needing to be paid. One company downloaded genuine copies of tax forms from the internet for you to fill in. Then once you have done this, a bank transfer needs to be paid to a non existent notary or some other person. Another company wanted Western Union Transfers made out to a private individual. Low and behold you never hear from them again.

 

Another part to this idea was the NIE Number. Some FIRMS stated you need one of these to get the money back and they would do the work for you. Obviously for a fee, usually several hundred pounds. Now the NIE is the foreign residents identification number, which you only need if you become resident in spain or are buying real estate.

 

There are also now the class action companies, many are taking substantial fees to pay for these actions which in most cases are never instituted.

 

There are genuine companies out there but finding them is very difficult. There are also law firms who specialise in timeshare law, and are very successful, these are not part of the timeshare industry and tend to be shunned or slated by the timeshare companies, resort owners and the so called trade bodies such as the RDO and TATOC. Obviously they don’t want to lose your maintenance fees or payout compensation.

 

Any genuine law firm will be able to show you case papers of cases they have fought and won. The lawyers will also show their bar registration numbers, all lawyers must be members of the association for the area in which they practice. These can be easily checked and credited.

law soc

You can also find information via the internet on how to get money back when payments have been made using a credit card. So there is no need to pay someone to do it.

credit cards

If you need any help and advice on how to find these things out contact inside timeshare for free and impartial advice. The information is out there, you just need to know where to find it.