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).
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!
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.
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!
Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish an article from one of the Advocates, as usual this has been edited by Irene Parker. First a word from Europe.
The Litigious Abogados family have taken their little scam to a new level, Inside Timeshare was horrified to receive yet another sorry story from a reader who found the articles too late.
In this story he has paid the initial procurator fees, then the “tax” to have the money released from the court. He then received an envelope with the cheque for his compensation, unfortunately it had yet again been opened and the cheque was missing. As usual he then received another letter from another company stating they had been assigned by the courts to investigate this and get his money back from the bank. This cheque had yet again been cashed by a gang of Romanians.
He then paid the 10% of the amount on the cheque to this company, then he receives notification that he has outstanding property tax for a property he owns in Spain, this needs to be paid before the money is released as it is embargoed. He is then informed that his NIE number is out of date and needs to be renewed, they will do it for him for a fee.
The next letter he receives is that he has outstanding fines for a traffic offence!
Very strange indeed, the full story will be published next week, but this does reinforce the fact that before you pay any money, check who they are.
What I have started to think when it comes to timeshare ownership and the future of the industry…
Everyone knows this industry is not well regulated (but obviously needs to be). Some of the actions and activities of individuals and companies that get reported in the timeshare world would result in major fines and possibly prison sentences in other better regulated industries.
It appears the industry has long depended on “self-regulation”. It has not done a great job of that but there have always been just enough companies that seem to try and deliver a quality product and quality customer experience at the same time they balance trying to make a healthy profit.
I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience. I am sure there are other good examples.
In the past, the actions of the bad eggs of the industry (the industry’s worst examples), the negative impact was always minimal and able to be managed before it metastasized. But the potential problem as I see it is that in the last decade it appears what may be described as large predatory financial engineering companies almost “posing” as timeshare companies have risen and aggressively worked every loophole and non-regulation to their own advantage and now are probably guilty of gross violations of their fiduciary responsibility to their customers / owners. These companies have created vast fortunes for a very small network of individuals at the top of the pyramid.
Ironically though, and looking at historical examples from other industries, it is these very companies likely to bring the whole industry into the national spotlight and to its knees eventually. Some of these appear to have walked to the edge of doing that already.
As these quasi financial engineering / timesharing companies become increasingly more brazen in chasing profits by any means possible, raising fees rapidly at the same time they are reducing owner benefits, due to their increased sheer size the public outcry will likely increase and just the odds of random probability suggests there will be a “Gotcha” moment or event that will bring increased scrutiny and increased legislation.
If the good timeshare companies try to ignore what the bad ones are doing, they may find someday that their systems and profits and share prices are negatively impacted by the future regulations forced on the industry from the egregious actions of the bad actors in their industry.
Pharma for example is still dealing with the Turing Pharmaceuticals fallout even now 2 years later, and that fallout will likely not dissipate anytime soon.
This is just my still forming hypothesis. We’ll see.
Thank you to the author of this article and to Irene who did the editing, we also thank all those who read and made comments before it was published.
It just remains for Inside Timeshare to wish you all a very good weekend.
Over the past few weeks many of the articles have shown some of the worst of timeshare, today however we show what can be good about timeshare.
In the UK there is a certain saying which is normally associated with substandard, shoddy or a bit of a joke, that saying is “Mickey Mouse!”
But in the context of this article it means brilliant!
Irene Parker explores one timeshare product that excels, in the world of timeshare this is rare indeed, Inside Timeshare has also done a lot of investigating and concurs with Irene, we can find no complaints against this “Mickey Mouse” outfit.
Before we published this article we reached out to Bluegreen, they told us they would have a response within 24 hours, that was on Monday, we still have not heard from them. The point is, by reaching out to other companies, we are giving them the opportunity to change, by working with us and our readers they have the chance to put right what is wrong with timeshare.
In Europe and Spain in particular, it is legislation that is forcing timeshare developers to change what and how they sell. The proliferation of court actions has changed timeshare for the better, we are seeing products and sales techniques change. Disney have shown that by having respect for their clients and putting their needs first, they have a product that is worthy of the name “timeshare”.
Try as I might, I cannot find complaints about Disney’s timeshare arm, Disney Vacation Club. Searching in vain, it brought up memories of the old Maytag repairman ads describing the Maytag repairman as “The Loneliest Guy in Town”. The point of this long running series of commercials was that the product was so trustworthy and dependable that Maytag repairmen spent their days waiting for the phone to ring.
Why does the Disney Vacation Club have so few complaints? Any company has its grumblers, but the best I could find were a few owners complaining about availability. I asked Fernando at the Disney sales call center. Fernando was not allowed to provide his last name but was happy to talk about what makes Disney different and why Disney customers are so loyal.
Fernando attributed such a low volume of complaints to customer expectations met. As far as the complaints about availability, “Some timeshare members plan better than others”, said Fernando. “But it’s all about meeting customer expectations.” Just like hotel bookings, timeshare bookings are subject to supply and demand that fluctuates with peak and off seasons.
I also asked Fernando if he felt a viable secondary market was a benefit for the company as the timeshare owner obviously benefits from access to a secondary market. “Disney does not attempt to control the market. We believe timeshare should be a free market,”he explained.
The Timeshare Store markets basically only Disney timeshares.
“We don’t charge any upfront fees. A seller pays a commission at the time of closing and $170 in fees to Disney Vacation Club,”explained Jason Erpelding, Licensed Real Estate Broker Associate. Above all, consumers buying or selling a timeshare on the secondary market should work through a licensed broker as timeshare resale and listing scams are common. The Timeshare Store has a Better Business Bureau rating of A.
Contrast Disney timeshare resale prices with timeshare resale prices in general. Many timeshare are offered for $1 to $99, originally purchased for thousands of dollars. As demonstrated by The Timeshare Store listings, Disney resales are offered for $10,000 to $30,000 or more. Contact The Timeshare Store or a LTRBA member to find out the benefits or lack of benefits buying resale vs buying directly from the timeshare developer.
Disney’s website states: You purchase a real estate interest in a Disney Vacation Club Resort. The keywords are real estate. You own something and thus have a beneficial interest. Some timeshare company non-deeded points have been compared to buying air. Lack of availability is a frequent complaint.
Fernando and I talked about Disney’s corporate culture. Ray Kroc of McDonald’s restaurant fame and Walt Disney both drove an ambulance for the Red Cross in World War I. “While we were out chasing girls, Walt was drawing cartoons. All those girls are dead but Walt’s cartoons thrive to this day”, said Kroc.
Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Corporation were originally motivated by art. Money was the by-product of a pure motivation. Think of a real estate agent who is motivated by finding you the best house as opposed to the real estate agent that has nothing but the vision of a commission check dancing in front of his or her eyes. The purity of Walt Disney’s original motive has had an effect that has carried through the decades. “People buy a Disney timeshare because they know Disney and believe in Disney”, said Fernando. In other words, the strength of the Disney brand, supported by met expectations, has led Disney to become the model for timeshare developers industry wide. “I love what I do here,”Fernando added.
Lisa Ann Schreier, former timeshare sales agent and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies, echoed Fernando’s enthusiasm. Lisa worked at Celebration World Resort, right in Disney’s Orlando neighborhood. “Most if not all Disney Vacation Club purchasers/owners are given sufficient information on the product before and after purchase. There’s no feeling of being rushed into a purchase and Disney’s famous Guest Service is no less evident with DVC than at The Magic Kingdom”.
There doesn’t appear to be any angry owner Facebooks or websites either. Let’s contrast Disney with Bluegreen timeshare. The following are member supported Bluegreen Facebook pages. In parenthesis I have changed the words to be generic as the advice provided is appropriate for any would-be timeshare buyer.
This Bluegreen Facebook page of 1,670 members, Sales Team Reviews & Update/Sales Presentation Experience, is for the benefit of the members, corporate Bluegreen personnel and sales agents working towards a more honest and transparent sales process.
(Any timeshare company) IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR DOING ANYTHING OTHER THAN WHAT IS STATED IN THE CONTRACT. IF YOUR SALES REP CANNOT SHOW IT TO YOU IN WRITING IN THE CONTRACT DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE IT HAPPEN.
YOU HAVE A CANCELLATION PERIOD WHICH VARIES BY STATE AND THAT INFORMATION IS ALSO IN THE CONTRACT.
(Many) BENEFITS ARE NOT GUARANTEED. THEY CAN BE CHANGED OR CANCELLED AT ANYTIME.
This is a public group accessible to everyone, including Sales and Corporate. You are responsible for your own comments, opinions, etc. I am merely providing this page as a single location for both positive and negative experiences in regards to the sales team. Allowing both them and corporate to better improve how owners and possible new owners are treated, likely increasing sales.”
A Member Sponsored Bluegreen Facebook page: 770 members
This Facebook page seems to be a sort of self-help Facebook for members trying to be released from their contract. A book on how to write a letter to an Attorney General is available.
The following internet consumer complaint sites list Bluegreen reviews:
Consumer Affairs rates Bluegreen 1 ½ stars out of 5 stars based on 100 ratings. There were a total of 411 reviews. In all fairness, Disney ranked only 2 stars out of 5. Typically happy customers don’t bother searching for complaint sites to post positive reviews. Consumer Affairs posts a balanced collection of consumer reviews helpful for consumers researching online.
Pissed Consumer rates Bluegreen 1.9 out of 5 stars based on 155 reviews. There were a total of 761 reviews. There were no Disney reviews on this site.
Complaints List – There was only one Bluegreen complaint but the comment was intriguing.
“One federal authority told me they are in violation of the constitution by enslaving people with unending contracts because this is a form of indentured slavery and slavery is unconstitutional…”
Here is the company response one of our Diamond Resort readers just emailed me in response to their allegations that they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. I have highlighted the oral representation section in red.
“We must advise that legally the contract is binding and as we have previously advised the relevant information could be found in the body of the agreement and was in fact acknowledged by yourself. We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”
It would certainly save the timeshare company and the timeshare buyer a lot of times and trouble if the paragraph above would be provided to the person about to enter a timeshare presentation. Most, if not all of the complaints Inside Timeshare receives begin with, “The sales agent said…..”
The Finn Law Group maintains approximately 500 timeshare cases. Timeshare attorney Mike Finn told me he has never had a Disney client which led me on this quest to find Disney complaints. Mike Finn has often said the timeshare contract’s oral representation clause is “a license to lie”, used and abused by some timeshare sales agents. Just think. If Disney were the only timeshare company out there, Mike Finn would be Disney’s version of the Maytag repairman.
So there we have it, not exactly rocket science is it?
Put the customer first, give a good service and bingo, happy all round. A business model that keeps going, a business that people are proud to work for, a business that customers are happy to be members of.
On another note, Canarian Legal Alliance, announced that it had just received another Supreme Court ruling, that now brings the total to a massive 57. You could say that they have just had their “Heinz” moment.
In Spanish legal history this is unprecedented, no other law firm has achieved anything like this, from what our sources tell us this figure is set to rise, as they have many more cases waiting to be heard in Spain’s highest court!
As the news comes in we will keep you informed.
In this week’s Friday’s Letter from America we will be publishing another article on Advocacy, written by one of The Timeshare Advocacy Group. In this analysis of the industry the writer puts forward some very interesting points, so stay with us for the next article, see you then.