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March 2019

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, This week Irene Parker writes about Americano Beach Resort and the lawsuit that has been filed regarding Foreclosure Proceedings, but first a quick warning to our European readers.

Another warning is being issued to those clients of Eze Group, a new firm has just emerged contacting consumers stating they have been appointed by the court to manage the return of money paid to Eze Group.

This company name is Egerton Advisory Limited, Company Number 10286171 and the registered address:

Eighth Floor 6 New Street Square, New Fetter Lane, London, United Kingdom, EC4A 3AQ

With an alternative location address registered as:

Q3 The Square Randalls Way, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 7TW

The directors are named as:

Victoria Noland Carter Egerton and William Luke Le Beward Egerton, both registered the New Street Square address.

The company was incorporated on 19 July 2016, but the filing history shows very little information or filing of any accounts.

As we have stated before, the courts do not appoint private companies or third parties to manage any payouts. No money has been awarded by Birmingham Crown Court to consumers of Eze Group, the O’Reilly‘s are now subject to investigation under The Proceeds of Crime Act, which will take some time to complete.

Along with Money Advice Limited, Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, Egerton Advisory Limited are fraudulent companies, if you are contacted by them or any other company with a similar story then let Inside Timeshare know and file a report to Action Fraud.

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

A Class Action Lawsuit was Filed against ARC Daytona Americano Beach Resort Contesting Real Property Foreclosure Proceedings are being Illegally Applied to Foreclose on Personal Property  

By Irene Parker

March 29, 2019

DC Capital Law, LLP filed a class action lawsuit on November 6, 2018, against ARC Americano, LLC and Americano Beach Lodge Resort Condominium Association on behalf of plaintiffs Gerald J Sohasky and Norma J. Sohasky in the Florida Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Volusia Civil Division.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs Gerald and Norma Sohasky allege illegal practices that violate the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act and the Florida Vacation Plan and Timeshare Act by threatening foreclosure on a piece of personal property and threatening to charge up to 40% of amounts owed in collections, where the original contract or law does not authorize charging such collection fee. The ARC lawsuit contends “Floating Week” debt is consumer debt, incurred primarily for personal, household or family use.

Having read or listened to complaints from 746 timeshare members and owners, I am astonished by the level of stress caused by what is supposed to be a stress reducing product.  

Comment sent to Inside Timeshare

My parents bought into the Americano in the 90’s. Fast forward to 2017 – my 70 something year old mother, now a widow, had to pay for a service we hadn’t used in ages.

They (Americano) HOUNDED MY MOM about switching to the freedom 365 plan. She was a 13 year widow on a very fixed income and somehow we were pushed into signing for a new plan that would offer us huge hotel discounts and she would be able to stop paying after 5 years.

My mom is going broke!  Sara

My husband and I purchased an Ozark timeshare in 1985. A St. Louis native, we enjoyed years of vacations, but after moving to Florida we no longer desired to vacation in the Ozarks. I contacted the resort and talked to the manager I had gotten to know over the years. “Yeah, we had a board meeting and decided we can’t expect loyal owners who faithfully paid maintenance fees for thirty years, now older, to be held hostage,” she said. A few days later I received a one page form to be notarized, sent it back and that was that. We paid $8,000 for the timeshare in 1985. I had no regrets getting nothing in return as we had used the timeshare for many years. Like Sara’s mom, and many in my age bracket, we are losing hips, knees, eyesight and spouses. The thought of going to the Ozarks alone, should something happen to my spouse, is depressing.

Americano is demanding owners, many who have owned at Americano for decades, spend an additional $5,000 to $6,000 to join a Freedom 365 Travel Club in order to be released from their deeded weeks. Making this mandatory for seniors seems unfair. Granted, the resort is in need of funds as Americano is the only Daytona resort still not opened after suffering hurricane damage, but other developers now have voluntary surrender programs for members in good standing. There may be a fee, but the fee is less than $1,000. Don’t forget that we were all told we were buying real estate so no problem selling the timeshare should we need to dispose of it. In a statement made by ARC’s law firm, they assert they will work with owners to find appropriate alternatives but typically for seniors, a Travel Club is the last thing needed. I’m looking at long term care plans.

The issues related to property damage are complicated. When Americano owners contact me, I explain that if they bought a primary residence condo, and the condo is rendered uninhabitable, the assessment fees don’t stop. It would be difficult to sell an uninhabitable condo. I understand ARC’s argument from this perspective.

Due to pending litigation, ARC’s response is from their attorneys. I have found others at Americano willing to listen and weigh in consideration; the harm timeshare exit in general is causing especially seniors. Let’s hope continued dialog will result in some form of relief for angry and frustrated owners.

Below is the response we received from ARC’s attorneys. Contrary to the attorney’s response, this article will not be disseminated to some of the Americano owners. Some Americano owners do read and share our articles. We sent a draft of today’s article to ARC to give ARC an opportunity to correct any inaccuracies, which they corrected. Inside Timeshare is published from Spain. Following ARC comments, are arguments presented by the plaintiffs’ attorney taken from the lawsuit complaint. A legal expert weighs in. Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not respond.

Response from ARC’s attorneys submitted by ARC President Scott MacGregor:

This information is given to correct inaccuracies to be contained in a publication that will be disseminated to some of the owners.  Americano is a Legacy resort that was severely damaged due to the recent back to back hurricanes, 2016 Hurricane Matthew and 2017 Hurricane Irma. There was one Special Assessment for $4,348,109, not $15 million, which will correct the incorrect reference in the article. The Association continues to seek insurance from its carriers, but had to pursue litigation to address the claims. The Developer is seeking financing and other options for the remaining restoration of the Resort estimated to be $15 million plus. However, it is imperative that all owners pay the maintenance fees, taxes and assessments as required under the Declaration and Florida law. It is fundamentally unfair to the paying owners for other owners not to pay to operate and restore the resort.

The Association is faced with vigorously defending any lawsuit against the Association, which litigation will only increase fees and costs to all owners, as required under Florida law, at the Resort. While our trial legal counsel has stated that no comment should be made at this time concerning any lawsuits, the Americano Beach Lodge Resort is a real property timeshare under Florida law and actions taken are authorized and required under the Declaration and Florida law.

The Developer and Association continue to try to work with each owner to find appropriate alternatives as discussed before. Owners are encouraged to seek ownership and payment options through the Association and Developer.  Lawsuits against the Association will not only increase maintenance fees and assessments for all of the owners due to legal and professional fee expenses, but also may leave those owners with potentially expensive legal bills in addition to their ongoing obligations to the Association. We believe it is much better to work together to resolve the issues that everyone is facing rather than unnecessarily expend owner and Association funds and resources that are needed to restore the Resort, for court expenses.

More from Sara:

They used scare tactics to convince my mom that I would be responsible for the timeshare in the event of her passing, and my children would be responsible after I passed. I have learned this is not true.

The Freedom 365 plan supposedly offered us huge hotel discounts and would allow my mom to stop paying after five years.  We attempted to use the Freedom 365 plan. The first two times we used it we did get a good discount on hotel rooms, but after that the deep discount was no longer available. We got a good rate the first time at $93 for a Hyatt room, but when we later tried to book the same week of the year the price was $100 more, about $170 plus tax. I called and asked why it was so much more. They stated they could price match if we got a better price on another website. What good is that? You don’t have to pay any kind of upfront money, financed by a loan, to book a hotel room using an online service. We were promised the best deals. We were promised so much and at what cost? My mom is going broke! The amount financed was $6,000.

Following are allegations made in the lawsuit

Is a “Floating Week” timeshare real estate or personal property?

If the timeshare is defined as personal property, the lawsuit claims foreclosure rights do not legally exist and are in violation of the Florida Timeshare Act.

I’ve had many discussions about timeshare foreclosure questioning whether a timeshare really is real property. I found the requirements governing real vs personal property foreclosure in Texas helpful:

Comparison of Texas Foreclosure Procedures for Real property and Personal Property

Real property and personal property foreclosures are dramatically different. Real property foreclosures are conducted on the first Tuesday of each month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse door in the county in which the real property is located, with a notice posted at the courthouse door, personal notice to the debtor, and filing of the notice with the county clerk, all 21 days before the foreclosure sale. These requirements are defined by § 52.001 of the Property Code and are unique to Texas law. Personal property foreclosures are conducted under § 9.504 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which generally requires a commercially reasonable sale. The requirements of Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code are followed, with some minor variations, by all states except Louisiana.

According to the ARC lawsuit, plaintiffs purchased only the ability to make a reservation rather than ownership in real property. In the “Floating (or flex use) periods and The Timeshare Plan article of the Declaration, the Declaration makes it very clear that the Warranty deed of an “owner” who switched  to Floating time to become a member of a “Right to Use” program renders the deed worthless and provides none of the requisite rights associated with real property.

I asked an expert, as argued in the lawsuit, if switching from a “Fixed Week” to “Floating Week” would render the “Fixed Week” deed worthless.

Purchasers still own that deeded week and it can be found in land records. The purchaser simply surrendered their right to occupy that week and the use rights that went with it in exchange for a floating week use right. Their interest, however, is tethered to an actual real property ownership (even if they cannot legally possess it). If they sold their interest, they would be selling the deeded week they bought which would include the surrender and exchange agreement for a floating week. By the same token, if they are foreclosed upon for non-payment, it would be the deeded week that would be foreclosed and the agreements tied to it (i.e., the floating week right) would be rendered null and void.

As an analogy, let’s say you join a car-sharing group where everyone in the group can use whatever car is available using a reservation system. In order to get into the group, however, you are required to purchase a car to add to the fleet. You don’t buy the car outright; you finance it through the group such that your monthly dues are part car payment and part fees. Even though you hold title to one car in the fleet, you have no more right to use that car than anyone else in the group. If you fall behind in your monthly dues, you will lose your car-sharing membership (i.e., the use rights you bargained for), and the car that you added to the fleet (i.e., the tangible property you hold title to but surrendered possessory interest in) will be repossessed by the group.

Note from Inside Timeshare: Spanish Timeshare Law prohibits Floating Weeks and Points as there is no tangible product and they lack any substance.

My unnamed source is not saying the lawsuit is without merit, in that they feel the underlying real property is illusory, but they feel it may be a tough argument to win.  

Related articles:

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders     

What happens if I stop paying my maintenance fees? Timeshare attorney Mike Finn answers the question in this article:

Proprietors behind Americano are ARC American Resort Collection

www.arcresorts.com/about-arc/

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

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.

Thank you Irene, next week in the Tuesday Slot we welcome Mike Kosor with his response to the Wyndham Sr VP Jason Gamel and his testimony to the Florida HB 435 workshop.

Join us again next week and have a great weekend.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome KOALA, a new innovation in Timeshare Rentals & Exchange, with the introduction by Irene Parker.

First another word of warning for those who have had dealings with Eze Group, as we reported on Monday, Dominic O’Reilly has been jailed for 2 years 4 months, with Stephanie O’Reilly receiving 9 months & 18 months suspended for 2 years.

Since this case has been in the public domain several readers have informed us of companies claiming to be working with or appointed by the courts to help “victims” get their money back. The main one that seems to be contacting people with this story is Money Advice Limited.

The latest reader to have been contacted has been told that the money is in the Spanish legal system, that they need to pay £725 in order to get the money. Once this is paid they will receive a cheque within 10 days.

This is a scam, there is no money held by the courts either in Spain or the UK. No court appoints a private company or third party to contact victims. If you had come up in any investigation the authorities would have been in contact before any case, this would have been to provide any evidence and witness statements to strengthen any case they had.

DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM.

Now for this weeks article.

KOALA Provides a New Era for Timeshare Rentals & Exchange

Founded by a team that believes everyone has the right to decide how and when they travel, Koala is empowering owners to utilize their timeshare without limits. There are no upfront costs, no commitments and no hidden fees.

Visit the KOALA website to join their exclusive wait list

www.go-koala.com/owners

March 26, 2019

Introduction by Irene Parker

I met with the founders of Koala last summer when visiting our daughter in New York. Co-Founder Mike Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur and spent 10 years as a Sales Executive at Hilton Club New York. Inside Timeshare has received only two Hilton complaints out of 742 reader complaints. Mike gained valuable insight into the struggles of timeshare owners today and is committed to modernizing and improving the industry.

Co-Founder James Burbridge reached out to Inside Timeshare about a year ago. Since then the two have been laying the groundwork to launch Koala’s modernized timeshare exchange platform. James has spent over 20 years in digital media, business transformation and delivery of cutting-edge technology. He has developed multiple web solutions in the travel, retail and hospitality space.

The two founders met through James’ wife and quickly found common ground when it comes to their beliefs in entrepreneurship – solve a big problem and work with people who focus on solving that problem ethically and efficiently. These core beliefs stem through the company culture at Koala. The company has assembled a team of experts to deliver the website to the market this summer. This is the inventory build-up phase, so contact Koala to become a part of this revolutionary new service. According to Mike, “We have had a great response from our sign-up page. Many owners are signed up and ready to go.” https://go-koala.com/owners/

In a remarkable display of a lack of business ethics on the part of SellMyTimeshareNow (SMTN), when I searched for the new Koala timeshare exchange, I found a link to KoalaSellMyTimeshareNowSalesandRentals. SMTN stole our Inside Timeshare keywords too. When I searched Inside Timeshare the link was to InsideTimeshareSalesandRentals/SMTN. Inside Timeshare has received complaints about SMTN, and there is a RedWeek thread started by people who paid SMTN $1,700 to list timeshares widely known to have no secondary market. On this front Inside Timeshare supports the hotly contested Florida House timeshare Bill 435 and Nevada Senate Bill 348 feeling SMTN should not receive compensation until after a timeshare has been sold. Koala is considering a SellMyTimeshareNowSalesandRentals/Koala link.

KOALA

Koala is a secure, peer-to-peer marketplace for timeshare owners to easily rent unused time to anyone in the world. It is reinventing the way owners use their assets to Go Somewhere New whether you’re a savvy owner ready to embrace innovation, or your timeshare no longer fits your lifestyle, Koala is set to disrupt the status quo.

There is a growing demand from travelers for accommodations that offer more space than a hotel room and more safety than a stranger’s home. Koala connects timeshare hosts to those seeking the value and certainty that timeshare rentals provide.

Transactions that occur between owners and travelers are secure as Koala safeguards both parties. Technology is at the heart of this innovation, ensuring the highest level of certainty and trust.

State of the Industry  

  • Peer-to-peer technology is leading the industry in the rest of the travel sector but timeshare has seen no evolution in this direction.
  • Millions of owners don’t utilize their timeshares and are reaching for new ways to subsidize their unused asset.

Why KOALA?

  • Your Time is Valuable – Your timeshare is rented faster. We put your rental in front of all travelers, not just those looking for timeshares.
  • Free to List – Signing up and listing is totally free. Owners remain in control and can delist at any time. Fees are only charged once a rental is completed and, depending on a few variables, the fee will be 5-10% of the total rental. The fee is collected once your guest has concluded their stay. Owners always see exactly what they’ll earn and exactly what we charge before they list.
  • It’s Simple and Secure – Creating your listing is quick and simple. Our secure network ends your worries and gets the money to your pocket.
  • Safety and Security are at the core of Koala’s Company Culture

With years of timeshare and tech-industry experience, Koala’s founders were driven to build a tool that would grant owners the control and freedom they deserve. Backed by a group of industry experts, Koala is shaping the future of vacation ownership.

The next generation of timeshare buyers expects more control over their vacations. Koala will revolutionize vacation ownership using a peer-to-peer solution the same way Uber & Airbnb have for their respective industries. Koala is set to launch this summer and is currently accepting early members online.  

https://www.go-koala.com/

Be sure to check with your resort to determine any restrictions on renting.

Thank you Irene and Koala for this article, we hope that this is something that will at last be of benefit to owners.

If you have been contacted by any company that tells you money is being held by any court, use our contact page and let us know, it is with your information that we can inform others of the scams that are going on.

Start the Week: O’Reilly’s Sentenced and Others Under Investigation

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we review last weeks news from Birmingham Crown Court with the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly of Eze Group. We also look at other people and companies who are also under investigation and may just be finding themselves in court.

On Thursday 21 March at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Laurence Creed passed the following sentences.

Dominic O’Reilly, jailed for 2 years 4 months, disqualified from directorships for 9 years.

Stephanie O’Reilly, 9 months suspended for 2 years, 18 months suspended for 2 years plus, disqualified for 6 years.

Dominic & Stephanie O’Reilly (Birmingham Mail)

Inside Timeshare has received a transcript by a court reporter, which although it is not verified, it does match reports published in the press.

In the Prosecution opening statement, it was asked that the judge consider monetary harm, this was extremely high according to the prosecution, with 36 complaints, 90 in process and 45 further complaints pending.

The prosecution also explained the emotional impact, consumers were told they had no cancellation rights along with aggressive sales tactics. It was also mentioned that the defendants were told to stop these tactics including the institution of cancellation rights, but these did continue even after Trading Standards began investigations.

In mitigation, the defence for Mr O’Reilly asked for the sentence to be suspended as he did plead guilty at an early stage. He also told the court that Mr O’Reilly is now 54, in ill health and in need of a heart operation.

The fact that one elderly couple aged 68 and 69, one who had recently had a stroke, the other had diabetes including an attack during the meeting, were made to transfer money before being allowed to leave, does make the above mitigation plea a complete joke.

Miss O’Reilly’s defence used her being the mother of a 1-year-old baby which is breastfed and she is now 11 weeks pregnant. Also, she has no support structure in the UK, as her parents live in Tenerife, that her partner would have to give up his job to look after the baby if she was jailed.

In all, the 36 complaints totalled £425,000 of which only £3,813 was ever refunded, Trading Standards found another 100 complaints totalling £1.3 million. In all the company made by 2017 around £3.375 million.

Much of this money was transferred to the Tenerife company Regency Shores SL when the customers believed it was being paid to Eze Europe Ltd.

The judge also highlighted several clients, that were sent threatening letters for payments when the client wanted to cancel. One client had to call their daughter to help pay, then chased with a letter before action.

The client cases in this trial are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, there are hundreds more, unfortunately, many of these are now subject to scams due to this trail. Cold calls from companies stating they are working with or have been appointed by the courts to help them get money back which the courts are holding. As we have said before this is not true.

The O’Reilly’s are now being investigated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, The authorities have to power to seize accounts and assets such as houses and cars if it is deemed they are from the proceeds of crime. The problem now is can they link it, where is the money, are any properties in their names, or are they in his wifes or her partner’s names. If so can it be proven the money used was from the O’Reilly’s in the first place?

We can only wait and see.

If you have been a client and receive any calls regarding money being held for you, then contact Inside Timeshare. We will then explain where you stand and if you are able to get anything back.

Link to the Birmingham Mail

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/timeshare-boss-dominic-oreilly-jailed-16010172?fbclid=IwAR1HB-9OyDuv4d5Xytwk0mjX7ZmeIWIWJNGMZqUibWaE7fKXa0nR__dbnH0

Another investigation is also being conducted into several Mark Rowe companies, by the Regional Organised Crime Unit of Avon and Somerset Police, along with the authorities in Tenerife.

Mark Rowe

This investigation is very similar in nature to the one into Eze Group, it is still underway and no new or further information is yet available. But no doubt we may see a case in the courts in the near future.

Over the past few months Inside Timeshare has also been following several other names, Ali Farhoud, Alex Farhoud and Lee Burton, all linked to Silverpoint.

Ali Farhoud

In the case of the Farhouds and their company Nordic Consulting Canary Islands SL, they now entice their old Silverpoint clients with legal action against their one-time employer Silverpoint. See the links below for further information.

We have from very reliable sources been informed that criminal denuncias have been made to the Spanish authorities against all three. Many of these by their very own clients.

Although we know that these investigations take time, especially when new complaints are likely, one thing is certain, the authorities always get them in the end.

As and when new information comes in, it will be published on these pages.

If you require any further information or have had dealings with any of the companies mentioned, then use our contact page and let us know. Inside Timeshare will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

As usual, a word of warning, before you deal with any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or from an advert, do your homework. If you are not sure then contact Inside Timeshare.