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Whistleblowers Summit

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article by Irene Parker looks at “whistleblowers”, Irene attended a Whistleblowers Summit in Washington DC and for Irene it was a real eye opener.

As for timeshare matters in Europe, it is very quiet, although one new cold calling company has been reported on the Mindtimeshare website. They are called Services Juridico Reservations and are based in Marrakech, they appear to be contacting mainly Dutch owners at the present with the usual tale of a “guaranteed buyer” for their timeshare.

The offer is a substantial cash amount, although the timeshare owner does not have to travel to Marrakesh, everything can be done by telephone or email. There is no upfront fee, but there will be a large amount to pay for “TAX” for the sale to go through.

The telephone number is +212 609 158 457 with a standard gmail email address: [email protected] which is not linked to any website. They give the address as Boulevard Mohamed VI Plazza D4, 40000 Marrakech, Morroc.

We just wonder how long it will be before other nationalities in Europe are contacted by this dubious outfit.

Now for this weeks article.

Timeshare Fraud and Whistleblower Retaliation

By Irene Parker

August 10 2018

Whistleblower definition:

A whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The information of alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud, and corruption.

Those who become whistleblowers can choose to bring information or allegations to surface either internally or externally. Internally, a whistleblower can bring her accusations to the attention of other people within the accused organization. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of an accused organization such as the media, government, law enforcement, or those who are concerned. Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower

I had the privilege of attending the Whistleblowers Summit held July 30 – August 1 in Washington DC. A frequent comment Charles Thomas and I hear from timeshare members, after describing how they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents is, “It helps to know I am not alone.” That’s how I felt meeting and listening to fellow whistleblowers.

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Whistleblowing-Works–12-by-Marta-Steele-Civil-Advocacy_Civil-Liberties_Civil-Rights_Civil-Rights-Violations-180801-756.html

One remarkable whistleblower at the Whistleblowers Summit was Aaron Westrick, Ph.D. Dr. Westrick, former Director for Research and Marketing at Second Chance Body, received a Pillar Award for exposing defective bulletproof vests. One police officer died and another injured when the vests did not hold up. Dr. Westrick explained how he had been fired from his company for exposing corruption and how he endured a 14 year legal battle as a result of his truth telling.

https://www.whistleblowersblog.org/2018/08/articles/whistleblower-news/bullet-proof-vest-whistleblower-aaron-westrick-receives-pillar-award/

When it was suggested I attend the Whistleblowers Summit, I thought I was attending on behalf of 68 members of law enforcement and military, veterans and active duty, who reached out to Inside Timeshare describing how they had been defrauded by timeshare sales agents. Veteran Administration whistleblowers were well represented. However, in the last few weeks, I have learned that I am a target of retaliation as a result of my attempts to expose fraud.    

Inside Timeshare has heard from 528 timeshare members angry beyond words. I believe highly educated, professional timeshare members alleging fraud over the timeshare sales agents they accuse. There are too many patterns of identical complaints and too many repeat offenders to be ignored. We have been contacted by senior after senior, up-sold into foreclosure. The foreclosure process is demeaning and demoralizing. For the young, unwittingly signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market, the credit downgrade is long lasting.

Two timeshare members are working on their own articles.

One member attended a timeshare presentation in Las Vegas. According to the member, he told the sales agent his wife purchased a deeded timeshare week 18 years ago and he had hated the timeshare for 18 years. He explained that he had never attended a timeshare presentation until this presentation, which he attended only to learn how to exit. The sales agent told him that in order to be eligible for the voluntary surrender program he would need to convert his deed to points. This was blatantly false. Many deeded timeshare members have surrendered their deed. The sales agent sold the member $12,000 worth of points for no reason. Worse, the timeshare company requires a six month waiting period before applying for a surrender, to capture 2019 maintenance fees.

Past articles have mentioned timeshare customer service representatives responding to members, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” After we published this response, the line was changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said,” as this member was told.

The other timeshare member was also up-sold by a Las Vegas timeshare agent. Six months ago a disabled veteran recorded a blatantly fraudulent up-sell. The recording was so obviously fraudulent you would have assumed the agent would be fired. Not so. Inside Timeshare received a complaint this week from a timeshare member reporting they had been defrauded by this same timeshare sales agent and that the sales agent told the member he was assigned to the highest loyalty level members. Two sales agents with this distinction had been fired, but only after years of complaints.

Wells Fargo made national headlines when they admitted allowing their representatives to open bogus accounts. It’s annoying to have an unauthorized credit card opened, but timeshare members report being defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Complaints involving $100,000 to $200,000 are not uncommon.

In the case of Wells Fargo, at least victims could file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Timeshare buyers could not effectively file a CFPB complaint because the timeshare company services the loan. The filer has to select a lender from the CFPB drop down menu and a timeshare company is not a choice.

It doesn’t matter what you are blowing the whistle on. I learned at the Whistleblowers Summit you can expect retaliation. In the case of Wells Fargo whistleblower Jessie Guiltron:

Jessie Guitron began working for Wells Fargo in 2008. Soon after, though, she realized they all faced a company-mandated quota to sign up new accounts. Some of her colleagues, she noticed, were promising to open free accounts for clients but signing them up for premium accounts which came with hefty fees. Customers were overdrawn, and their credit ruined.

“I kept complaining and complaining, and nothing ever gets done,” Guitron says. “I was doing what my conscience was telling me to do. It’s fraud. That’s what it is.”

Trying to stop that fraud put a target on her back. She was fired in 2010, she says, without warning. Unable to find a new job and believing she had been blackballed, Guitron filed a lawsuit claiming Wells Fargo fired her for speaking out against the fraudulent practices she witnessed.

But then, two years later, her claims against Wells Fargo were dismissed.

“I was deflated,” Guitron says. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m done.'”

In 2016, the world around her changed when the government accused Wells Fargo Bank of opening numerous accounts without their clients’ consent.  

https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/whistleblower-wells-fargo-fraud-could-have-been-stopped/

Like Bernie Madoff, unscrupulous timeshare sales agents and unscrupulous timeshare companies don’t care who they hurt. It is our hope that someday, some regulator will listen and respond. All timeshare complaints filed by our readers with the Nevada and Florida Attorneys General offices have been dismissed with, “You have no proof” or “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” In effect, there is no timeshare regulation in those states, at least not for the 528 members reporting back to us. Echoing the timeshare company’s “You have no proof,” provides a green light for fraud.

Like other whistleblowers, I have no regrets and would do nothing different. I would rather be attacked than ignored to shed light on so many responsible families financially devastated by decades of predatory, aggressive and fraudulent timeshare sales. Of course there are honest timeshare sales agents and happy timeshare members. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest, but researching Attorneys General investigations, lawsuits and complaints, Charles and I are not alone in our desire to take back our vacations. If only the developers and their law firms would take off the blinders. Charles and I know truth is our best defense.

If you have a question or concern about a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or an advocacy group.

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/

Related articles:

How to File a Timeshare Complaint  

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-teusday-slot-with-irene/

The St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

Thank you Irene, I know that you found the Whistleblowers Summit very intriguing and made many new contacts there. It is through people like those mentioned here that the truth is made public, without them large corporations and governments would get away with murder. Keep up the good work.

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, time for the beach, pool and BBQ’s, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Press Release from CLA, Plus a Quick Look at the Biggest Timeshare Fraud in History

As August is very much the summer holiday month, there is not a lot of news from the courts in Spain, but it is a month when some of the new names and old ones will be making a comeback on the scam front. We will be keeping a watch on these and will start reporting them as and when they do become active.

Following on from Start the Week on Monday, we reported the news from the Royal Courts of Justice regarding the case of the Financial Conduct Authority and the validation order issued to Barclay Partner Finance:

http://insidetimeshare.com/start-the-week-13/

We have been given the following press release from Canarian Legal Alliance.

On 19 June 2018, a representative from Canarian Legal Alliance attended the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Upper Tribunal, Tax and Chancery Division, to represent the interests of one of our clients.

These clients had been sold timeshare in Malta by Azure Resorts and were financed by loan agreements with Barclay Partner Finance. It transpires that these loan agreements were brokered by an unauthorised agent Azure Services Ltd. As such these agreements breached the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

This affected 1,444 credit agreements with a total value of £47 million, in the period between 1 April 2014 and 24 April 2016.

This made the agreements unenforceable, which entitled the borrowers to recover their money and have the agreements cancelled. Therefore BPF applied to the Financial Conduct Authority in May 2017 to have a validation order issued to rectify this. The FCA on the evidence and information at the time issued the order to validate the loan agreements in February 2018.

This validation would then entitle BPF to retain money paid to them under the agreements, also allowing BPF to enforce payments by any consumer who defaulted.

On 1 August 2018 Judge Timothy Herrington issued his judgement, in his ruling he stated the FCA should re-examine the original order and take into account “client detriment”, a factor which the FCA had not considered in the original order.

In the case of our client, this “client detriment” is very clear, they were mislead into purchasing the timeshare as an investment with the promise of income rental and then resale, which never materialised. They were pressured into signing the loan agreement after hours of high pressure timeshare sales tactics, even though our client explained they could ill afford the timeshare.

They were not explained the terms and conditions of the agreement or the full extent of the cost, the product they were purchasing was not suitable for their needs and would not fulfill the promises given. They were also mislead as to the length of the loan agreement, being 2 years and not 15 years which it turned out to be.

There were no proper credit checks made with regards to affordability or the ability to afford the repayments, they were not asked to provide any proof of income (bearing in mind they were both in their 70’s and on pensions), or any proof of outgoings.

Once the validation order is overturned by the FCA, this will leave our client able to recover all money paid to BPF and have the loan agreement declared null and void.

This ruling may also have an effect on loan agreement for timeshares purchased via loans even by an authorised broker. As a law firm we have many clients who have gone through the same process, lengthy presentations, high pressure sales and no proper checks regarding the ability to afford the repayments. We believe this may give clients an avenue to have these agreements cancelled and be reimbursed the money paid.

Canarian Legal Alliance

Our thanks to CLA for that information, now a quick look at an old story which was prompted by an item on ITV News, this was an interview by the wife of John “Goldfinger” Palmer who was shot and killed at his Essex home in June 2015.

In the interview she expressed her disbelief at the inability of Essex Police to find her husband’s killer, which the police believe was a professional hit. She also claimed she felt “sorry” for those who lost thousands in the timeshare scam. This is after she started the interview with “It was a wonderful Lifestyle” and “We had everything we possibly could want”. On whose money is the question?

The timeshare scam involved 17,000 victims and was worth over £100 million, it revolved around the multiple selling of timeshare units, resorts that had not been built or ever going to be built and ones without any planning permission.

It has been regarded as the biggest timeshare fraud in history.

Palmer was eventually jailed for 8 years in 2001 in the UK after being convicted for timeshare fraud. He was also ordered to repay around £33 million to his victims, but as the Crown Prosecution Service bungled the paperwork this order was overturned to the consternation of the police. He was released in 2005 and returned to Tenerife.

He was eventually arrested on the runway and bundled into a military transport and taken to Madrid to await trial by the Spanish authorities, he spent 2 years in jail and was then released on bail returning to the UK. The rest as they say is history.

Click on the link below to see the interview and the second link which is a report by Roger Cook made around 2 years ago on the full story of John “Goldfinger” Palmer, from his involvement in the Brinks Mat bullion robbery through to his timeshare frauds.

https://www.facebook.com/ITVWestcountry/videos/2076879189011352/

Join us tomorrow for our Letter from America, this week Irene Parker reports on the Whistleblowers Summit which she attended in Washington DC in July, you will certainly find it a revelation.