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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, the original article which was going to be published today has been replaced, this is due to the timeshare company reaching out to the members. As always, Inside Timeshare sends a draft copy to the timeshare company for comment, we do not always get a response, but on this occasion the company did respond. It may have been at the eleventh hour, but we congratulate the timeshare company concerned for their reaching out and we hope that they are able to resolve the matter.

As a last minute replacement we publish a revised version of The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles, by Irene Parker, originally published in November 2016.

This week has been a rather quiet one as far as the courts are concerned, there have been many cases going before the judges, but the sentences are unlikely to be announced until the New Year. Although we did get news of two sentences issued this week.

The first was from the Court of First Instance No4 in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, the judge in this case declared the contract with Anfi null and void. The reason was the length of the contract which exceeded that allowed by Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, which states that perpetuity contracts or contracts with no end date and exceed the 50 years maximum are illegal. The client in this case has been refunded over 61,000€ plus legal Interest.

At the High Court No4 in Tenerife, Silverpoint was on the receiving end. The contract was declared null and void as it did not include any tangible product. Again under Law 42/98, a timeshare must include specific information such as a set apartment or an exact time of year. The client in this case has been refunded over 10,000€ plus legal interest.

Once again these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, contrary to what some forums run by some very dubious characters will tell you, these are genuine cases and are a matter of public record.

     

Now for this week’s replacement article.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles Revisited

    Jackie Siegel, Queen of Versailles  

By Irene Parker

December 14, 2018

“The Peasant of Venice and Queen of Versailles” article was first published November 6, 2016. I wrote the article because I wanted to explain how I went from being a 30 plus year timeshare owner without a timeshare complaint, question or post, to a full time volunteer whistleblower.

In July of 2015 I experienced a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation in Florida. We had previously purchased points in Virginia because the company said they were adding New York properties, only to learn it would take about $10,000 in equivalent maintenance fee dollars to stay at the same hotel, same week that could be booked online for $1,000 plus tax. When I checked December 1, 2018, it would have cost $12,000 using our timeshare points. I don’t blame the sales agent. He may not have known about the poor value. It was the response from the company to the Attorney General listing all the times we had used our points prior to that purchase that bothered me. Eventually I was offered our money back for that purchase, but could not bring myself to sign the non-disclosure agreement.       

Rosa Parks said, “I was just trying to get home from work.” In my case, we were trying to get to our new home, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. It was my intention to return to my first love – teaching piano lessons. That all changed after the revolting timeshare presentation we experienced in Florida.  Disgusted, I returned to our unit, turned on the television and witnessed the jaw dropping house pictured above, being built by Westgate timeshare owners Jackie and David Siegel. I could not resist.

It was a hot July summer day in Orlando when my retirement turned upside down.

We entered the hospitality area where we were invited to attend a 55 minute “information only” presentation for existing owners. “Will we be paired with a commissioned sales agent?” I asked three times. “No”, Julie replied, “Only if you have questions in the last ten minutes. I attended and I learned a lot! We have group presentations now because we had so many complaints about high pressure aggressive sales sessions.” We did not sign the form agreeing to the 55 minute meeting because the fine print said we would be robo-called if we did. We were robo-called anyway. There was no form to be signed for the three hours that followed the 55 minutes.

A Diamond Resorts member recently sent me this comment from a former Diamond concierge describing an unfair and deceptive practice:

Concierge (Former Employee) – Virginia Beach, VA 23451 – December 3, 2018

A typical day of work consisted of misleading current owners and their guests in order to persuade and entice them to attend a timeshare meeting that could last well over what was initially disclosed….The hardest part of this job was knowing I was intentionally misleading owners/guests of the length of time for their timeshare meeting, as well as not disclosing it as a timeshare meeting as instead it was mandatory we refer to it as simply an “update on their current status” or “ways you can stay here and affiliated businesses in the future”. The most enjoyable part of this job was the interaction with varying people and the connections I gained therein.

https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Diamond-Resorts-International/reviews

Our Nightmare on Timeshare Street begins:

The next day we entered the reception area to be greeted by an attractive young lady. “Hello,” Donna greeted us. “Are you a commissioned agent?” I asked.  Puzzled, she took us by the arm and escorted us to the 55 minute presentation, retrieved us immediately after, and led us to her den.

I told Donna, “My husband is 77 years old. We do not want to invest in vacation plans because we need to investigate long term care plans.” “Why, we have many in their 90’s who come and enjoy our resorts!” she cried. “But we are in the middle of building a house and have no permanent residence at this time,” I countered. Kneeling and looking up, she gazed into my eyes and confessed she was a single mother and had to resort to her Diamond points when she divorced. “I know you didn’t put all your money in that house though,” she added. I kept saying over and over, “We don’t want to travel. We like our new house.” Frustrated, the manager ended by advising me to go to the website if I want to find out what’s new. Three hours and three sales agents and managers later, we returned to our unit.

I checked my email and learned the 4,500 points we had been promised for our Port Elsewhere Ozark timeshare deposit was credited only 3,000 points. Sure enough, I learned later the 4,500 points promised could be changed at any time for any reason. It’s all in the fine print.

I then decided to take my mind off this disturbing revelation by watching television. I turned on the FOX news show Property Man show hosted by Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, and there she was – The Queen! The King and Queen of Westgate timeshare were building a 90,000 square foot home that defied the imagination. Jackie’s clothes closet is 5,500 square feet!

http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

Thinking about the pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation we were deceived into attending, and the worthless points specifically purchased to stay in New York City, I wrote to Mr. Massi at Property Man never dreaming I would earn a response. Copying the letter to Diamond customer service, they credited the correct amount promised for our Port Elsewhere week.

A few months later a FOX producer called. I was asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. The producer told me the Queen of Versailles show wasn’t even about timeshares. It was about their house, but FOX had been flooded with timeshare complaints. She said I was the only viewer they asked to interview because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives in addition to the negatives of timeshare. I told her I was sorry, but I had just accepted a position as interim music director for a large church and could not participate, but I offered to research timeshare to help them with their talking points.

I started digging. The deeper I dug, the more alarmed I became. Wyndham, Westgate, Bluegreen and Diamond seemed to have the most complaints, with Disney, Hilton and Marriott far fewer. I submitted my research to FOX and returned to the choir. Six months later, after arranging a flight to Phoenix to stay at  a Diamond resort in Sedona, I received a call from the FOX producer, asking if we would agree to be interviewed by Mr. Massi in Phoenix as they had interviews scheduled that weekend. Some things are meant to happen.

The FOX producer told me David Cortese of Magical Realty had also been interviewed by Mr. Massi about timeshare resales. David is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association (LTRBA). After viewing David’s segment, I contacted him to see if he would sell our Diamond points. I was told their company would not accept a listing to sell Diamond points. I surveyed all 64 LTRBA members and 22 responded also saying they felt Diamond points were worthless on the secondary market. “We feel Diamond has placed too many restrictions on the use of secondary points to be of any value to a buyer,” they sadly explained.

One of the LTRBA members asked if I would speak with a Hispanic family. Since this first October 2016 complaint, the calls and emails have not stopped. I have heard from 646 timeshare members.

Timeshare members want straight answers but straight answers are in short supply at some timeshare customer service desks. Callers or emailers explain how a sales agent lied to them, but when they contacted the timeshare company they were told, “You signed a contract.” Some described how the rescission period was dodged. Some things, like over promised availability, can’t be determined by reading the contract. I feel I was deceived by reading the contract which stated, “You can sell your points but we will not assist you.” They left out the part about no buyers.

From the October 2016 article describing what happened to the Hispanic family:

Maintenance fees increased to the point where they could no longer afford to own their points. The family soon found that they had to charge maintenance fees to their credit card in order to pay them. The family had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%.

In August 2015, when they complained about maintenance fees, they said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve Platinum level. He said that by being Platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only Platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees. Then and now Platinum members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point, so if all 50,000 points were tendered, it would pay $2,000 towards a 2018 $8,631 maintenance fee bill.

If the family had agreed to the additional 10,000 points, they would have gone further into debt with little recourse. Based on hundreds of reported responses, if they had purchased the points, they would have been told, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” They have a daughter who just graduated from high school and has started college.

I spoke to the family not long ago. They relinquished their $60,000 worth of points that they had accumulated. They are still paying off the home equity loan.

Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare has resale value.

Property Man was preempted due to the 2016 election coverage, so our segment aired April of 2017. The Florida DBPR timeshare division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014, so ignore Pam Bondi.  Bob Massi and his advice on timeshare resales:

https://www.facebook.com/RealBobMassi/videos/1041694629230338/

From FOX I stumbled onto Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service TheStreet, where remarkable editors, possessing the patience of Job, provided a crash course in editing.

https://www.thestreet.com/author/1684637/irene-parker/all.html

A member who submitted an article to Inside Timeshare introduced me to Whistleblowers of America https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/. Accepting an invitation to attend a Whistleblowers Summit in Washington DC this year, I was introduced to OpEd News:

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Witness-to-Las-Vegas-Octo-by-Irene-Parker-America-181030-359.html

And of course, there’s Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare in Spain and Wayne Robinson in Malaysia and Wayne’s book.  I was honored to edit and write the Forward. Everything About Timeshare, Before. During and After the Sale

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

So all in all, I’m getting great value from my timeshare points measured in the people I’ve met, readers who read my articles, and the gratitude from members who are grateful for straight answers. We especially appreciate our Facebook administrators and our growing team of members helping other members. I do believe we are a disruptor and hope our efforts will benefit sales agents who sell the product honestly, as well as forestalling new buyers and existing members from making a decision that has financially devastated more than a few families. When sold honestly, timeshare provides years of fun for friends and family.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene for getting this article out to us so quickly, it is difficult to replace an article at such short notice, but at least the timeshare company did respond and for that Inside Timeshare was happy to replace the original one.

That’s it for this week, join us again next week our last one before Christmas.

To all our readers have a great weekend and remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you have found on the internet.

More Fake Procurators Identified

Tomorrow we will be publishing another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, by another Agent Orange Disabled Veteran, David Althage, who is being forced into a Timeshare Foreclosure, The article has been edited by Irene Parker.

Moving on, Mindtimeshare has shared new information on yet more “Fake Procurators” working alongside the “Fake Law Firms” which we have dubbed The Litigious Abogados Family. As our regular readers will know this plethora of “fake lawyers” has been running for around 3 years, every few months they change name and websites, yet all the websites are identical. All money they require from “clients” has to be paid to a Procurador, and there have been many of these surfacing.

The first is named as Carlos Gregorio Ingramo, very similar to one we named on 31 July CARLOS RIHOM IGRAIM and another on 11 December, Carlos Gabriel Salva Imgran, must admit they are very creative with the names they use.

Carlos Ingramo has a website

http://procuradores-ingramo.com/

Registered on 19 November 2018 and set to expire on 19 November 2019, so very new indeed. Once again the registrant is hidden so we have no idea who it is.

They show no telephone number but do have an email address: [email protected]

The address they show on the website is totally false and cannot be found on any maps search of Tenerife:

Calle Delmante 8, Edificio Kaleta, 202C, 38001, Santa Cruz Tenerife

The second “Fake Procurador” is named as Miguel Earas Raya, with the website:

http://procuradores-raya.com

Registered on 19 November 2018, due to expire on 19 November 2019, and yes you guessed it, the registrant is hidden.

No Telephone number but an email address:

[email protected]

The postal address is:

Calle Alamo 6, Edificio Watama, 161C, 38002, Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

Which again is fake and cannot be found on any internet map search.

The third one today is, Abel Deraza Tabreul, with the website

http://procuradores-tabreul.com

Registered on 26 October 2018 and due to expire 26 October 2019, once again registrant is hidden.

No telephone number is shown, but the email address is:

[email protected]

As with all these email addresses they are not linked to the websites, but are free email address providers.

The address given on the website is:

Calle Delatar 6, Pulgadas, Edificio Estresha, 403, 38001, Santa Cruz

Another fake address that cannot be found on any map!

All these are “FAKE”, they do not exist, somehow they have been able to set up bank accounts for you the unsuspecting client to pay in your hard earned cash.

If you are contacted by any of the “fake lawyers” or “fake Procurators” that we have highlighted in previous articles, then contact Inside Timeshare and let us know as much detail as possible.

To check all articles we have published, use Litigious Abogados in the search box, this will bring up all articles published, beware there are a lot of them.

Want to know if any “lawyers”, “claims companies”, “procurators” or any company that contacts you is genuine, use our contact page and gives us as much information as you have, we will then do the relevant checks and let you know if they are genuine or fake.

Remember, doing your homework is essential, there are many more “fake and scam” companies out there, with many more emerging each week. We need your information to identify them and warn others.

Join us tomorrow for our weekly Letter from America and another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to our Tuesday Slot, this weeks article by Irene Parker looks at a possible “Special Assessment” which may be levied against Diamond Hawaii Collection members and something she terms as the “Ping Pong Up-sell”. This is something we have heard about from readers on numerous occasions.

After our article yesterday on the “Fake” Procuradur and Lawyers, Inside Timeshare has already had several emails from readers who have thanked us for bringing this to their attention, they had been contacted by the “fake” firms mentioned and were almost taken in by them. Thankfully they decided to do a search on the internet and found previous articles as well as the one published yesterday.

This really does go to show how cautious you have to be when being contacted about your timeshare, the “pitch” is always very convincing and plays on the fact you will get back thousands. For many of these owners this is very tempting, as they tend to be elderly and can no longer afford the maintenance fees or even be able to travel.

Now on with this weeks article.

Beach Erosion in Hawaii and The Ping Pong Up-sell

By Irene Parker

December 11, 2018

I read a RedWeek post last week written by a Diamond Resorts member asking about a $6,000 special assessment they were told was to be levied against Diamond’s Hawaii Collection in 2020 due to beach erosion. Diamond sells their points as Collections, so there is a U.S. Collection, a Hawaii Collection, and a few others. The RedWeek post:

Has anyone heard of an upcoming assessment to repair the beach erosion? I recently attended an update meeting and was encouraged to get out of the Hawaiian collection. I was told that in 2020 owners will be charged an assessment to repair the beach erosion. My assessment was estimated to be around $6,000.

The poster apparently was attending a presentation on the U.S. mainland, because the sales agent told her she should not have purchased Hawaii Collection points due to the anticipated levy of a $6,000 special assessment.

As I was reading the post, my phone rang. Coincidentally the caller happened to be an ocean engineer who called because he was concerned that his elderly parents had purchased timeshare points, told if they did not give up their deeded timeshare with another company and buy points, their heirs would be responsible for the timeshare. This is a common complaint and almost always not true, but beyond the scope of this article. A recent article entitled the Heir Scare, our Halloween edition:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-27/

The ocean engineer’s professional opinion:

My suggestion would be to ask Diamond for documentation to support the additional charges. For instance, it is reasonable to ask if the funding is for future flood protection that might be afforded by a beach nourishment project. Alternatively, inquire if the money might be required to pay for damage that has already occurred to structures or to restore a previously eroded beach.  If the assessment is intended for a beach nourishment project, it is likely that arrangements are in place for cost sharing between local stakeholders and government entities. Participation by a state or federal agency is an opportunity for those impacted by the additional billing to independently verify the project cost. The cost and scope of government efforts are a matter of public record, and learning the particulars is typically as easy as calling the project managers. If difficulties are encountered, the public has recourse in filing either federal or state Freedom of Information Inquiries.

In addition, 2020 is too far out to predict with any sort of fidelity. Concrete financial planning numbers at this stage are unlikely. There is an effort to have cost sharing between stakeholders and the federal entities. I have not heard of a federal project in Hawaii. It could be state, but most major beach nourishment projects are underwritten in part by the federal government. I have not heard of a state paying for damages from a flood.  The member needs to know what the assessment is for, in more detail than just beach erosion. Is it for protection or for damage that has already occurred? One is flood damage expense, the other is flood protection afforded by beach nourishment projects.

As I understand it “water intrusion” would be the responsibility of the timeshare developer, as water entered the property. Beach erosion is a natural, or some say a climate change generated phenomena, with the responsibility most likely in the hands of the federal government, but possibly the state.

This switch from one Collection to another is a common complaint. It’s been reported so frequently I have termed it “The Ping Pong Up-sell.” Numerous members have reported that they were told they should have not purchased U.S. or Hawaii Collection points, depending on which side of the Pacific they are sitting. We have categorized about 400 of the over 500 complaints.

One former Diamond member reported that her Virginia Diamond sales agent showed them pictures of decaying Hawaii air-conditioners as the reason they needed to switch to the US Collection from the Hawaii Collection.  

Roy Simmons and his wife are in the painful and demeaning timeshare foreclosure process. Mr. Simmons is a Navy veteran, living on a letter carrier’s pension. Mr. Simmons switched back and forth from the U.S. to the Hawaii Collection, ending up with $2,700 a month in Diamond loan payments. In his YouTube, which has had over 2,000 views, Mr. Simmons explains the reasons why he switched from:

  1. The U.S. Collection to the Hawaii Collection, then
  2. About six months later after this switch, Mr. Simmons switched from the Hawaii Collection to the U.S. Collection. According to Mr. Simmons, the Florida sales agent asked, “Why Hawaii?” The sales agent said the interest on their loan payments should be about $200 to $300 less in the U.S. Collection because Hawaii has hurricanes, and in the past, damage from the hurricanes had been expensed to members. He said they might have to pay thousands in special assessments.
  3. About six months after that, they traveled to Hawaii and were asked, “Why U.S. Collection?” “It was true the interest on our loan payments did not decrease by $200 to $300 a month, only $20 to $30 per month, and because we purchased more points, we ended up with $2,700 a month in loan payments. We always enjoyed our Diamond points,” said Mr. Simmons.

Mr. Simmons’ YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_nca6lMA4U&feature=youtu.be    

Diamond’s Kauai Poipu Resort did experience water intrusion damage in 2012, which prompted a lawsuit filed by owners.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60625-i1817-k5926954-Settlement_Reached_Between_Diamond_Point_at_Poipu_Owners-Poipu_Kauai_Hawaii.html

I asked attorney Mike Finn his opinion concerning special assessments of this nature:

I essentially agree with your engineer’s comments. The owners would be called upon for a special assessment if it was a water intrusion issue, as it would be assessed to them by the property owners association.

The legal issue regarding Poipu Point was the obvious mismanagement from the association’s management company in failing to prevent the water intrusion and/or failing to remedy the situation once it was discovered. The management company failed in its duty to pursue the insurance claim as well, perhaps realizing that their poor maintenance was probably the source of the problem and that was not covered by insurance.

As to the association’s responsibility for beach erosion, that would be quite a stretch and should be challenged by any board members not in the pocket of the developer. Maintenance of the beach should not be an association issue. That sounds like a salesman’s scare tactic.

As always, Inside Timeshare knows there are many Diamond timeshare sales agents that sell the product properly, and we hope the company will consider that Mr. Simmons may be telling the truth. We hear from senior after senior, contemplating foreclosure. I have listened to many tears.

Self-help timeshare groups we feel are not industry influenced and our mission statement:

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and also a big thanks to attorney Mike Finn for your contribution, we are sure that this article will be of great interest to many Diamond Members.

If you have any comments or wish to contribute an article, then contact Inside Timeshare, we would love to share them with our readers worldwide.

Have you been contacted by a so-called law firm or claims company with a story that your timeshare company has been or is being taken to court?

Have you been told that your name is on a list of creditors owed money which the court is holding, due to a purchase you made years ago?

If so, then use our contact page and let us know, be safe rather than sorry, get the facts before you pay any money. Do your homework, you know it makes sense.