Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker asks the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, What about us? Ms Bondi seems to have a reputation for backing big business rather than the consumer, but more of that in Irene’s article. As usual we begin with what is happening in Europe.
Legal history has now been made with CLA achieving their 60th victory in Spain’s highest court, we say legal history as this is unprecedented. No other law firm has ever managed to get this number of cases through the Supreme Court. This is a fantastic achievement since their first victory in March 2015, in the past two and a half years they have not only made history but have also made law.
Their latest victories have been against Silverpoint, in sentence number 59, the court ordered the return of over 65,000€ plus the payment of First Instance legal fees and legal interest. The client’s contract was also declared null & void, which now makes them timeshare free with no more ongoing maintenance fees.
With sentence number 60, the same court ruled that the contract be declared null & void, ordering Silverpoint to return over 92,000€ plus Appeal Instance legal fees and legal interest. This now makes a total of 21 judgments from the Supreme Court against Silverpoint alone.
Then the following day, the Judge at the High Court Number 3 in Tenerife, followed the Supreme Court rulings declaring another client’s contract with Silverpoint null & void. The judge also ordered the return of over 11,000€ plus legal interest.
Not only must the clients be celebrating, but I will wager there was some celebrating going on in the Lawyer’s office!
Following the publication of yesterday’s article on the new fake law firm Amador Galeca Abogados, we received an email from a reader who has already been taken in by them. Unfortunately they have already paid the Procurator a fee, but at least it was not a large sum, yet something prompted them to start checking the internet for information before they paid them next amounts.
As we said yesterday it would only be a matter of time before we found out the new name of the Procurator and the bank account they are using, here it is:
Procurator: Graham Ingum Gorrin
As for the address of the procurator, searching on google and google maps it does not exist, so any post sent there will obviously never be delivered.
This reader has also supplied some new and interesting information, Amador Galeca informed them that the directors of their timeshare had pleaded guilty in court and that all their assets had been seized, not bad, it seems that all the directors according to this group of fake law firms plead guilty!
The amount paid was for a relinquishment through the Spanish courts, which needed to be done first before they could go to court for compensation. The strange thing is, once again it seems that the jurisdiction of the Spanish Courts now extends beyond the borders of Spain and encompasses timeshare in the UK!
These readers have been lucky, they have not lost a huge amount, they have also informed their bank who is going to issue an alert to all other banks.
This does prove the point, never believe what you are told, especially when it comes to timeshare,
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD, STOP THINK AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Now on with Irene’s article.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi – What about Us?
Irma Iniki and Timeshare
By Irene Parker
Friday September 22 2017
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi expressed her outrage over price gouging during hurricane Irma. While her dismay is understandable and commendable, why has there been so little effort expended to come to the aid of Florida timeshare buyers alleging they were deceived into buying a timeshare? Nationwide there have been lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations too numerous to mention.
Ms. Bondi has been quick to investigate timeshare resale scams.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit against a company she accuses of violating Florida’s Timeshare Resale Accountability Act.
Florida has a specific law covering timeshare resales because it has so many of the properties, whose owners are often desperate to unload them.
In this latest case, Bondi sued Prime Resorts International, based in central Florida. She accuses the company of making telephone calls to timeshare owners all over the country, telling them they have a buyer for their timeshare. She says the company also claimed to be able to guarantee the deal would close.
Sources tell us Ms. Bondi is investigating The Berkley Group. The Berkley Group owns Vacation Village Resorts. With a BBB rating of F, looking into this company is a start, but acting on only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014 seems underperforming at best.
Ms. Bondi opened this resale investigation after receiving 85 complaints.
The attorney general opened her investigation after she said her office got more than 85 complaints, claiming to have lost more than $110,000. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the company, consumer restitution, and a civil penalty of $10,000 per violation.
Inside Timeshare has received 144 timeshare complaints of which 130 allege they were deceived on the front end of the sale. The dollar amount in question concerns well over one million dollars. The 14 not alleging deceit say they seek relinquishment because they say they cannot afford the annually increasing maintenance fees. ARDA and the industry continue to ignore deception exists, and with lawmakers turning a deaf ear, the court of public opinion seems the only avenue open for families reporting how they have been financially devastated by their timeshare plan.
Timeshare revenue in Florida is a lot of dollars to tamper with.
As the state’s No. 1 industry, tourism is crucial to Florida’s economy – generating 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing more than one million Floridians. In 2011, tourism was responsible for welcoming 86.5 million visitors to Florida and generated $67.2 billion in direct economic impact.
The industry will be quick to respond that there are nine million who own timeshares. What difference does a couple hundred families make? It makes a world of difference to the families affected who have contacted Inside Timeshare.
Recently, the Finn Law Group took issue with the lack of disclosure provided to timeshare buyers. If feeling deceived, after spending $5,000 to over $500,000 on a vacation plan, families are shocked to learn their timeshare has no secondary market and the contract is perpetual. Contracts are deceptive in that they often state points can be sold. Buyers are not informed about the lack of buyers should they need to sell.
LARGO, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–An administrative petition has been filed against Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation alleging that the agency’s approval of a request by timeshare developers to make statutorily mandated public offering statements available by providing an online address at the closing rather the furnishing hard copies violates Florida law.
Ms. Bondi appeared on Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi’s Property Man Show in 2016 explaining how the Florida Attorney General’s office worked with ARDA and the Department of Justice to shut down timeshare resale or release scams. Mr. Massi encouraged timeshare members to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association if they need to sell their timeshare. When I contacted LTRBA about selling our Diamond timeshare points, I was informed by several LTRBA members they know of no licensed LTRBA broker who will even accept a listing for our points due to secondary market restrictions.
Inside Timeshare has also started hearing from Bluegreen members. One member is Lela Renea, a Bluegreen member and a detective. Lela Renea says she was deceived into buying a timeshare. If a Florida detective, allegedly reports being a victim of deceptive sales, what chance does the average timeshare buyer on the street have?
When I wrote an article for TheStreet, Jim Cramer of Mad Money’s investment news service, challenging what is in my opinion gestapo like tactics demanding Diamond members stay vacationed, Diamond demanded a rebuttal, stating they understood life’s changes could render their product a liability so they were introducing a program called Transitions that would allow qualified members in good standing a way out. That was June of 2016, yet the company has yet to introduce the program. “Qualified” is the key word. Most members contacting Inside Timeshare have loans, and many allege they succumbed to high interest rate loans and credit cards after hours long aggressive sales presentations. A timeshare must be unencumbered to be eligible for any voluntary surrender program.
“Is Apollo Returning to its Junk Roots?” is the article Diamond found objectionable. Most remember the subprime mortgage crisis, but a decade earlier was the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond scandal that sent Michael Milken to jail for securities fraud. DBL founder and banker Leon Black filed bankruptcy on DBL only to reform and rebrand as Apollo Global Management, purchasing Diamond Resorts in 2016. If DBL liked junk bonds, which had some value, timeshare points that have no value the moment the contract is signed, should a buyer need to sell, must seem attractive.
Hurricanes and Timeshare
One of the top complaints Inside Timeshare has received concerns upsells by timeshare sales agents on the US mainland selling against timeshare agents in Hawaii. This would be normal competition were it not for the fact the dueling agents work for the same company. Buyers tell us sales agents on the mainland side tell existing members they should not have purchased a Hawaii timeshare because of damages from hurricane Iniki that struck Hawaii on Kauai in 1992. They are encouraged to buy more points and transfer to US mainland points, despite Florida resorts included in their purchase. Obviously, Florida is at risk for hurricanes.
Ms. Bondi, please listen to us. The Arizona Attorney General has received over 900 timeshare complaints about Diamond Resorts:
Wyndham former timeshare sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million by a jury concerning overly aggressive and predatory timeshare techniques:
Eric Schneiderman’s $6.5 million settlement with The Manhattan Club:
In addition to member families,Charles Thomas at Inside Timeshare has heard from eight current and former timeshare sales agents alarmed at the escalation in predatory sales. The following comment made by a former experienced sales agent mirrors the others.
“I watched every day, agents selling DRI for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them for doing it. The maintenance fees statement about buying more and using that to pay your maintenance fees was a practice that was encouraged, but be careful. Some of the agents, who still work at DRI, would sell the program for $98k when it was only in the 50k range. One of the guests came back to cancel but the agent said no worries, “I have it packed 40k but I’ll give then 15 off and still make a killing!” This made me sick because these particular guests were in their late 70′ early 80’s. I asked the agent if he had a conscience and he just laughed…if you can get them to pay more you’re a hero!! They have the money!!
Deception actually goes back further than that. We were told to pack the price for a trade in and imply that it was what they got back for their TS… we sold it for the regular price….they got nothing for their TS!”
(Charles Thomas, editors note: we have published on many occasions on the “stack and drop” tactic. This has been used for many years and we have seen it throughout Europe. It is used as a tool for upgrading or poaching other companies members. The consumer then believes they have had value for their other purchase).
It is our hope Diamond Resorts will listen and respond, along with Wyndham, Bluegreen and others, to improve timeshare sales today after the rise of “right to use” programs. In my opinion, such programs leave wide berth for misrepresentation and deceit.
The following are self-help Facebook pages representing over 1000 timeshare member families:
A few of the 144 families who have contacted Inside Timeshare:
Marsha, Ann and Marjorie
Eron Grant ARDA’s Code of Ethics
Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer June 30, 2017
Detective Lela Renea
David Franks Chapter 4
Karen Garello Secret Shopper June 22, 2017
Romeo and Lily
Barclaycard and Member stories May 17 2917
Eron Grant May 12, 2017
Barclays Bank Charles May 11, 2017
Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017
A Filipino Family April 13, 2017
Laurie Sabbagh March 17, 2017 Clarity Review
A Military Family March 6, 2017
The Hurleys January 25, 2017
Irina Allen January 13, 2017
Kathie Old December 6, 2016
Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award December 5, 2017
The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles November 7, 2017
Sylvia Saldana and the Barclaycard October 25, 2016
Hug Your Haters! By author Jay Baer on the importance of Social Media
Will anyone listen? Author Jay Baer is to be keynote speaker at the upcoming October Interval International Shared Ownership Investment Conference, attended by developers and private equity firms. In Hug Your Haters, Mr. Baer strongly urges companies to listen. Members are hopeful, but doubtful, developers will listen to him.
Thank you Irene and those that proof read your article and gave advice, timeshare is a crazy world, which is such a shame as it is a great idea, with many who have enjoyed it for many years. There are some very good developers and resorts, but the reputation of the industry is being spoilt by a few.
Have a great weekend.