Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article is not from our very own Irene Parker but submitted by another contributor Kevin Hopkins and his wife Brenda Hopkins, ex-Air Force, in the light of this article and the recent news regarding the President’s son in law, Inside Timeshare asks our readers the following:
How do you feel about Apollo‘s $184 million loan to Jared Kushner, no matter the side of your political aisle, knowing there have been over 30 members of the military and law enforcement who have filed complaints similar to Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, people who have put their lives on the line for us, alleging timeshare deceit.
Scotty Black, retired Navy, currently working in law enforcement, worried about his Security Clearance. Active Duty Navy couple George and Amanda Jones, worried about their Security Clearance, previously published articles. Terry and Roxanne Hurley, 26 years Canadian army lost their entire life savings. Does Diamond care? Does Apollo? “You signed a contract.” It doesn’t matter what the sales agent said. Too many others to mention in an introduction.
Roxane and Terry Hurley lost their entire life savings
Use our comments section to leave your thoughts, now on with Kevin’s story.
Diamond Apollo Points – An Investment Opportunity!
March 2, 2018
By Kevin Hopkins, Retired Air Force, Electronic Warfare
And Brenda Hopkins, Prior Air Force, Avionics
Our Diamond ownership:
Liki Tiki Orlando FL, deeded week with 2250 points (4500 every odd year)
Purchase price in 2010: $10,971
Maintenance fees: $747
Our Diamond membership:
3000 Diamond points purchased Jan 15, 2017 in Orlando
Sales agent: Sofiane Mannai
Purchase price: $14,100 including $2,951 charged to a Barclay card the same day
Amount financed through Diamond Financial Services: $11,643 @ 16.99%
Maintenance fees: $960
About a month after purchasing 3000 Diamond points, we realized things were not quite right. After a year, we realized we made a bad mistake. Yes, we signed a contract. The thing is though; almost everything we were told was NOT TRUE.
What Happened to Us – Our YouTube:
In January 2017, when we met with sales agent Sofiane Mannai at Grand Beach in Orlando, we told him that our biggest complaint about our Liki Tiki timeshare was increasing maintenance fees, over $700 for points we rarely used. Mr. Mannai had introduced himself as an Apollo Customer Service Representative. Mr. Mannai said we could lower, or even eliminate, our maintenance fees if we bought 3000 additional Diamond points. He said that with the additional points, we would become Platinum Members because we would be over 5000 points. “As Platinum members you will be able to sell back annually unused points at a rate of $.50 per point. The money can be used to pay your maintenance fees or whatever you want to do with it,” he explained.
However, Mr. Mannai wasn’t done. He went on to tell us that if we were not happy, starting January 2018, DRI will buy back our points because Apollo wants happy investors. Apollo Global Management is the private equity firm that had recently purchased Diamond. Mr. Mannai said Apollo wants Diamond members to feel that their Diamond points are more of an investment than a prepaid vacation that you may or may not use. Apollo/Diamond loves to buy back points at the price we were paying for them ($4.70) because Diamond can turn around and resell the points for $8 or $9. “It is free money for them. Also, Diamond points are going to be easier to use because Apollo is so big – travel sites are going to start using them like currency. All the major travel sites will have an option to pay for services using Diamond points instead of credit cards!” he added
We asked how much our maintenance fees would go up. “With 3000 more points, your fees would likely double, but think about it – if you sell back all 5000 of your points for $.50 a point, that is $2,500. You’ll be able to pay all of your fees and still have some leftover. Where else could you get such a good return on your investment? But you have to be at Platinum to use this program,” he further explained.
Let me backup at this point and say that we enjoyed our Liki Tiki timeshare but we rarely used it. This would provide a way for us to keep Liki Tiki and use it only if we wanted to. When we didn’t use it we could sell back points to avoid maintenance fees. This would be perfect for us.
He gave us a timeline that Apollo would be rolling out these changes. This was done verbally of course. I remember because I wrote it down so that I would remember. I now suspect this timeline was a way to ensure that we waited past the rescission period before we complained. The “points as currency” program was scheduled to begin March, 2017, the $.50 per point buyback option June 2017, and the buy-back program January 2018. “These programs are still being implemented by Apollo, so it will not be in your paperwork,” Mr. Mannai added. He also said we were lucky to be receiving this offer now, before Apollo’s new benefits are announced, because the price will certainly go up once that happens.
Yeah, we fell for it. We fell hard. We spent $14,100 for 3000 points.
Our first surprise came about a month later when the additional points showed up in our account. We were not Platinum members. We did not have one account with 5250 points. We have two accounts, the original Liki Tiki 2250 points and the additional 3000 points. The phone calls began. We learned 5000 points is not Platinum loyalty level. Platinum requires 50000 points. The accounts cannot be merged because they are vastly different, one being a deeded account and the other a US Collections account. You cannot combine the points. I have tried. Also,
- There is no program to buy pack points at 50 cents a point
- There is no program to buy back timeshares from unhappy owners
- All travel sites do not accept Diamond points as currency
The only honest thing Sofiane Mannai told us was that our maintenance fees would double. They actually more than doubled. Furthermore, there is absolutely zero resale value for Diamond points. We can’t even unload it.
We are not alone
Since January 1, there have been 31 similar complaints filed by Active Duty Military, Military Veterans and members of law enforcement or retired law enforcement. Some of their stories are chilling. All of their stories should be a major concern as some of our older veterans are tricked into losing most, if not all, of their retirement income. Some Active Duty members are in, or near to being in foreclosure, affecting their Security Clearances and careers. Many of their stories can be found on insidetimeshare.com such as this one by former Navy member, Scotty Black. In it, he also links several more stories. Note that the number of complaints he refers to has gone up since his article was published.
These 31 complaints are just the ones I know about. Many more report aggressive Diamond timeshare sales tactics. If you have been reading Inside Timeshare articles, then you probably know that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich launched an investigation against Diamond Resorts in which a settlement was reached and an Assurance of Discontinuance issued.
Members who filed complaints described the same sales misrepresentations that we experienced in Jan 2017. Another class action lawsuit was filed against Diamond, this one in Nevada where Diamond’s headquarter is located.
For us the hits kept coming… Since we bought the 3000 points early in 2017, we had to pay the 2017 maintenance fees. In March we got a bill for $956.
In November 2017 we received a bill for $960 for the 2018 maintenance fees on the 3000 points and of course the $747 for the timeshare bought at Liki Tiki.
Alas, there was good news coming our way. In January 2018 I began talking to Diamond employee, Amanda Rody. She said we could finally merge our accounts.
All I had to do was purchase 2500 more points. We’re not making this up.
If I didn’t, our accounts would stay separate. I would have them FOREVER, and at least one of them would be passed on to my children along with the maintenance fees. We did not purchase more points, but we still have her offer in an email.
So….what did we do?
I started doing a lot of research and, like I said, we are not alone. Eventually, I found this Facebook group.
There are literally hundreds (983) of members in our advocacy group with similar stories. If you are reading this and have an experience with Diamond, this group is worth a look.
We have gained the interest and support of Whistleblowers of America, an organization that seeks justice for military and government employees.
On January 27, 2018 we filed a complaint. We asked for a refund. It was immediately shot down with the typical “Sorry, you signed a contract.” The DRI Hospitality Consumer Advocates even scanned in little pieces of the contract I signed to show me what I signed. Diamond must instruct them to hide behind the contract’s fine print to side-step the true issue of sales agent misrepresentation.
A little more research and it turns out that what we experienced meets the FBI’s definition of white-collar crime, defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” The FBI has advised timeshare buyers who feel they were a victim of a bait and switch of a serious nature, like ours, to file a complaint at IC3.gov and to file a complaint orally by contacting their local FBI field office (prompt #4, then prompt #3 white-collar crimes). It is not legal for companies to use fine print to allow sales agents to make false claims. In addition to filing a complaint with the FBI, we have filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
We will file a complaint with Florida’s Attorney General since that is where we purchased, and the Nevada Attorney General since that is where Diamond’s headquarter is located. We will file a complaint with Florida Real Estate Division against Sofiane Mannai. We are looking into how to file with the Military Complaints Board because there are protections that can and should be put into place to protect our Military and Veterans from predatory sales practices.
We are military. We fight back.
Thank you Kevin and Brenda, your story is becoming a recurring theme at Inside Timeshare, on a daily basis we are receiving more and more complaints. The US team are becoming overwhelmed with similar cases, so a great big thank you to all the volunteers who work so hard to get some justice.
If you need help or advice then contact Inside Timeshare, please let us know if you are a US or European member so we can direct you to the right team.
Have you been contacted or found a company on the internet and need to know if they are genuine and will what they say, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to check them out. Remember doing your homework will keep you and your money safe.
Have a good weekend and join us next week.