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Apollo Global Management

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Patty Boyak who has been attending court on behalf of Inside Timeshare reports on the verdict in the trial between Candace Czarny and Hyatt for unfair dismissal. Unfortunately, it is not the result that we had all hoped for. We then go on to report on seven more complaints against a Diamond Resorts sales agent in Las Vegas and five against another Diamond sales agent in California. These complaints are becoming all too frequent with Inside Timeshare receiving them almost on a daily basis, yet the timeshare companies do nothing and continue to allow their sales agents to behave in this despicable manner.

Now on with Patty’s report.

Former Hyatt Timeshare Sales Executive Candace Czarny v Hyatt Residential Marketing Corporation and Kent and Allison R. Drysdale

CASE NO.  CV2013-006230

Jury Trial Verdict

Seven complaints against our Diamond Resorts Las Vegas sales agent and five complaints against our California agent 

By Patty Boyak

July 19, 2019

In the trial of Candace Czarny v Hyatt and Kent and Allison Drysdale, the jury ruled in favour of Hyatt. While the verdict was a profound disappointment for Candace, when God closes one door he often opens another.

In 1991 Anita Hill got dragged through the muck of Senate hearings after accusing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. She didn’t want to go public, but knew in her heart she needed to speak out about actions she felt were inappropriate for a Supreme Court justice nominee. A movie was made about her humiliating ordeal. At the end of the movie, the wrap-up listed the positive consequences because of her efforts. Nationwide revisions to antiquated sexual harassment policies and procedures ensued.

To be honest, having listened to a week of testimony, I felt Candace had at best a 50/50 chance. She had only worked in the timeshare industry for 17 months. However, Candace scored a major victory in court for timeshare members, assisted by other witnesses, and Hyatt’s attorneys provided landmark evidence or lack of:

THERE IS NO LETTER!  

The reason this is so important is that so many timeshare complaints begin with, “They said I should have gotten a letter.” This statement is reported by many Diamond members, including a disabled veteran who caught deception on a recording. Understandably, his dispute was quickly resolved. We experienced the same agent but were told another member’s complaints had no bearing on our complaint.

If you listen to the recording, most would conclude this agent should have been fired. Instead, he introduced himself to us a year later as a Platinum Counselor, and just a few weeks ago, our group received complaint #7 against this agent.

Defendant Kent Drysdale was Hyatt’s Director of Training, but some of the deceptive practices described in Candace’s lawsuit (like the letter), were the same practices members complained about during the Arizona Attorney General’s investigation of Diamond Resorts in 2016. Mr Drysdale was the Director of Training for Diamond prior to being recruited by Hyatt. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts after the AG’s office received hundreds of complaints from Diamond members.

A “deceptive price freeze” demands the member buy points the same day or loose special pricing. In the case of the veteran who recorded our Diamond sales agent, not only had the veteran repeatedly asked for his driver’s license and credit card back over two hours of a five hour ordeal, he was told that because he “didn’t get the letter” he was not grandfathered in for a special price after Apollo Global Management had acquired Diamond. Alaa stated this meant they would have to pay enormous maintenance fees over the next ten years unless they purchased additional points. As this dispute quickly resolved, we will not identify the buyers or link the article published about their dispute.  

Thank you, Candace!  

Those of us whose families have been harmed by timeshare sales agents, now have proof of deceptive and unfair practices because Hyatt’s attorney could not produce the letter. One of the members of the jury had asked where it was. There were 200 exhibits. Two letters hastily produced at trial, but neither had anything to do with a prior letter the member was supposed to have received.    

I would like to share our Diamond Resorts experience so consumers may understand how the decked is stacked against the consumer. Of the 913 complaints our advocacy group has received, 115 are veterans and active duty service members. My husband is a Navy veteran.

Our Timeshare Accountability Group™  members share experiences in an effort to expose timeshare sales agents that have had multiple complaints filed against them. Including the veteran and our family, a total of seven complaints have been received, directed against Las Vegas sales agent Alaa C, and five complaints against California agent Trevor W. We purchased from both agents!

I have asked Inside Timeshare to publish our complaint submitted to the California and Nevada Real Estate Divisions hoping to reach lawmakers who, in recent Arizona legislation, bent to the will of ARDA lobbyists. ARDA’s position is that a state should not take responsibility for those who did not bother to understand the product and Arizona Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita was quoted, “These people are adults. There was a meeting of the minds and they signed a contract. They should take responsibility.”

I’d like for ARDA lobbyists and lawmakers to read five complaints against the California agent in today’s article, and the seven complaints against Nevada agent Alaa C (to be published next Tuesday) to understand the kinds of minds that meet.            

Five complaints against California Diamond sales agent Trevor W and Principal Broker Peter M

Trevor W complaint #1 A Senior in her mid-70s

Trevor W complaint #2 Brandon and Patty Boyak

Trevor W complaint #3 A Navy veteran

Trevor W complaint #4 Reported complaint but did not buy

Trevor W complaint #5 A senior age 75, resolved 

Trevor complaint #1 Platinum Member #80 of 101, age 75

April 10, 2019

My mother lost her entire retirement annuity of $350,000, plus maintenance fees are $20,000 so almost $400,000. She was switched back and forth five times over six transactions.  (Highlighted in red are agents Inside Timeshare received multiple complaints against):   

Everything was okay until May 2015 when Rick C transferred her points to the US from Hawaii, which cost $42,000. September 2015 she was switched back to HI by Paul M for $33,000. April 2016 HI points were switched back to the US at Mystic Dunes in Orlando, by Angelica S. In March 2017 she was switched back to HI by Ras for $38,000. November 2017 Palm Canyon Resort $80,000 bought points from Trevor W. October 2018 Billie B and Fred K transferred points back to the US telling her she would be able to pay maintenance fees costing $45,000. In Hawaii, one of the brokers said he has a broker who could help her rent points (which is not allowed for-profit) to get her money back and in the future, her points could be sold back to Diamond. 

She did not buy a second time March 2019 from Paul M. Paul said she should switch back to HI because there was going to be a huge Special Assessment in the US if she didn’t switch back to Hawaii for $63,000. She ended up with 100,000 US Collection points and $17,000 in annual maintenance fees

Trevor complaint #2 Platinum Member #28 of 191

July 6, 2019

Brandon and Patty Boyak

Our complaint is against CA Diamond Resorts sales Agent Trevor W.  

We purchased 17,500 points October 21, 2017, from Trevor at Palm Canyon Resort in Palm Springs, CA for $72,850.

Consumers need to know there is nothing to prevent timeshare fraud without a recording because proof is required. I spoke to attorneys to ask what constituents proof. I was told a pattern of complaints serves as a form of proof.  This is why we are gathering complaints.    

Peter M, Principal Broker California  

Trevor W said if we became Platinum “members” as opposed to “owners” we would be eligible for a program to sell points back to DRI at $0.30 per point. He explained this as a buyback program available only to Platinum members. We had never heard the term “member” before.  Trevor explained that by becoming a member we would lock in our maintenance fees, preventing them from increasing at alarming rates over the coming years. There is no such thing as member or owner points.

We never attempted to sell points back at $.30 because we missed the window period. Trevor explained that we had to turn in points by November 30 and we had to have 20% of our loan paid to be eligible for the maintenance fee buyback program. In no way would we have 20% of the loan paid in such a short time. This avoided the rescission period.  We were already aware of a travel discount program called 30/30. We did not know at the time only Platinum members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point, a worthless benefit because 50,000 points turned in at $.04 a point would cover only $2,000 towards an $8,631 maintenance fee bill (in 2018).

Trevor explained that as soon as a buyer makes an initial purchase of Diamond points, they become an owner.  Any new purchaser is considered an owner, but once we became Platinum we would become a Diamond member. He reminded us that we were considered “owners” because of our past Monarch affiliation.

We had five contracts prior to this meeting. This would finally give us true Platinum Member status with DRI.  The contracts were not wrapped.

Trevor Complaint #3 #78 of 101

A Navy veteran (retired), age 69

April 5, 2019

To: Michael Flaskey, CEO

Maria Kalber

ARDA

ARDA ROC

Barclay’s Bank

January 28, 2018

Points purchased: 1,500

We attended a presentation at a hotel on January 28, 2018.  Mr R. He said it would be better if we were to upgrade to Platinum because then we would be able to use our points to pay maintenance fees. I explained that we did not have the resources to upgrade. After several hours we agreed.

September 4, 2018, NV

Points purchased: 16,000

Sales Agent: Mr J Trevor W

Manager: Mr Matthew G

Purchase price: $48,000

September 4, 2018, we met with Trevor W. Mr W went over our account and stated that we were only a temporary platinum member and that we could not use our points towards maintenance fees.

I recall being told several times that if we were to upgrade to Platinum it would be an investment that we could pass to our children. He said if our children did not want the timeshare in the future they would be able to say that they did not want it or that they could sell points to pay maintenance fees.

Mr W asked us how we were able to purchase our existing points at such a low price because the price for points now was much higher.  He left to talk to his manager and came back stating that they would honour the low point price but if we waited the price would be substantially higher, somewhere in the range of 9 dollars and that they would increase soon in the future.  It was again mentioned that we would be able to use our points to pay maintenance fees by selling points. He said we would be able to sell our timeshare points outright in the future, but not at the present time.

Mr W said he would assist me in using Barclay Card points and Platinum exchanged points to pay maintenance fees. Mr W gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him towards the end of the year and he would assist me with the process.  Mr W never returned calls. After contacting customer service I found out that the point conversion was so small it would not make a dent in the liability. I did not find this out until I was billed for maintenance fees and attempted to pay the fees via points.   

 I have learned members are not required to attend presentations unless accepting a promotion. This also is deceptive to be told an update is required when it is not. Diamond points are worthless on resale. 

A senior, age 73, who did not buy from Trevor  

Trevor Complaint #4 Platinum member #85 out of 101

At Palm Canyon CA Trevor showed me a graph of maintenance fees showing maintenance fees increasing. Trevor had said that the way my contract with Al C had been written, my maintenance fees were at a higher rate of increase. Al had told me my maintenance fees would be at the lower rate of increase, but Trevor explained that because of how C wrote the contract I was at the higher level because C wrote the contract as an owner contract and not a member contract. He explained that there is a difference between members and owners in terms of how much you pay in maintenance fees. However, I bought non-deeded Diamond points from Al, so what he sold me was a membership. He said C made more money selling owner points.

Trevor waived the maintenance fee graph in front of me and said, “I know you are telling me the truth because there would be a signature acknowledging receipt in your file”. I asked Trevor for a copy of the contract history he was reviewing, but he said he could not give this to me. Trevor said the only way to fix the problem C caused was to buy more points for $125,000. Had I believed Trevor’s nonsense about buying ownership and not membership points, I would have been driven deeper into debt. I would be another Platinum member-driven into foreclosure.

Trevor also presented the misrepresentation about heirs saying that my heirs would be responsible if I did not buy an additional 75,000 points for $125,000.

Trevor, and a second agent, Brad G, said I could get out of the owner status and go to “member status” if I made the purchase.  Trevor assured me if I bought the points, I would then have the lowest maintenance fees. He told me I would need to do this to take care of the mess C had created.

Trevor and Brad acknowledged that “middle easterners at Cancun” in Las Vegas often made these mistakes. They thought Al was one who had put another person in a bad situation, but they would call Mike B to see if they could help me. Trevor agreed that Al had sold me a bait and switch.  Trevor and Brad also stated that Al had sold me 7000 more points than I needed to reach platinum status.

In the end, I did not feel that I could trust Trevor. I asked Trevor for a copy of his proposal that he had written down so I could talk to my financial advisor. He would not give it to me. I said I had to talk to my family because they had been waiting for hours. My friend and daughter-in-law returned with me and said that I was not going to sign anything. Trevor got nasty and said, “I resent you coming in here at the last minute giving advice.”

I also was told that unless I bought the new points from Trevor I could not sell my points.  If I did buy the points from them, Diamond would give me a list of members to whom I may sell. Diamond points are worthless on resale.

Besides ruining my afternoon with my family for my grandson’s birthday, I was a mental wreck.  When I returned, I told the two men that I didn’t have enough funds to make the purchase. I asked for more time so I could talk to my financial advisor who was not available by phone.  Trevor denied that request. He said I had to sign right then. He said if I signed I had 7 days in CA to cancel the contract. 

Trevor Complaint #5

A senior, age 70, Diamond Platinum member #90 of 101

June 5, 2019

To Michael Flaskey, CEO

Hospitality

Barclay’s President’s office

ARDA ROC

California Real Estate Division

Peter M

Trevor W

On 4/22/19 in Palm Desert, I went to an “Owner Update” with Platinum specialist Trevor W.  I had previously been assured that since I already owned 90,500 points, I was well in excess of the 50,000 points needed to be Platinum. I am 70 years old and have no children. The timespan and need for points are limited. Trevor launched into an explanation of why I had to buy additional “membership” points because the prior Hawaii sales agent had fraudulently, or at least mistakenly, sold me “owner” points due to inadequate training.  

I explained to Platinum specialist Trevor W that my only goal was to find a way to SELL my points, and also to make absolutely sure that Diamond could NOT attach my estate because my heirs did not want the points. 

Trevor explained that my points were essentially worthless, that there was no market for them because of the type of ownership category I held. He explained that the points that I owned, on the secondary market, would have none of the myriads of benefits like travel reimbursement for air and hotel, or access to other features. The buyer could only access specific Diamond-owned properties. 

The Hawaii sales agent said that Hawaii points were the premium to own and in huge demand by buyers. They explained that Hawaii points have a limited supply, so I could use them and then easily sell them. In fact, they said Diamond itself would likely buy them back because they were running out of property in the tight Maui market. 

Trevor pretended to be disappointed that I was sold a pack of lies, and implied that the Diamond rep knew the Hawaii points had no resale value. He said the rep should have disclosed this fact about worthless “ownership” points, worthless even when sold in Hawaii. I was really discouraged. Trevor posed as my friend, sorry to have to explain this to me.

Trevor offered a solution. Apollo owned Diamond, and Apollo was going public in the next couple of months. He said Apollo wanted Diamond to be clean as a whistle to have a stellar rating and reputation. Many owners had complained about not being able to resell, so Apollo had created a new class of ownership called “membership” which entitles a future buyer to all the Platinum benefits of my points. The maintenance fees for “owners” were going to skyrocket, compounding every year. He showed me a horrifying chart showing maintenance fees growing to a million dollars in aggregate over 20 years.  But the “membership” category would be capped. This would result in huge savings over time.

Trevor said the terms of the public offering SEC filing by Apollo mandated that points had to be sold at a base rate of slightly over $11/point. No more bargaining. Trevor said there were scores of Platinum buyers clamouring to buy points, as they would not want to pay the new rate, creating a hot market to sell points to those who had previously purchased “ownership” points like I had been mistakenly sold. Trevor said he would give me a list of buyers with their emails once Apollo went public. Of course, it would be up to me to make a private party agreement.  We had an elaborate discussion about what my average cost per point would be – about $4.50. 

Trevor said he had recently purchased points, knowing he could sell them back at a profit. Being leery, I said I wanted to see his purchase contract, which he said was at home, so on speakerphone, he called his wife to ask her to fax it.  She answered, such a sweet voice, and said she was at the market, but would send it as soon as she got home. So we took a break, as we’d been talking for hours. The break stretched to an hour. When we reconvened Trevor showed me his purchase contract. It must have taken an hour to make the mock purchase contract, backdate it, and have it faxed.

The hook was lowered.  I would be required to buy 25,000 points at $112,500 in order for Diamond to convert all my “ownership” points to “membership” points.  I was shocked at the dollar amount. It was like betting on the come, but it seemed the only way out. In about 2 months, Apollo would go public and Trevor would give me a list of eager existing Platinum owner-buyers. As I stalled, exhausted and discouraged, Sales Manager, Bradley reassured me.

I signed the purchase contract with misgivings, and explained to the contract/quality control guy (who said he was there to protect me from any misleading sales practices), that I was forced to buy points in order to be able to sell points in the near future and at least break even.  He didn’t blink an eye, which was reassuring. 

During this process, a loved one was rapidly sinking into dementia/Alzheimer.  

Members and current and former timeshare sales agents like Candace can help by joining forces with others seeking to reform timeshare. Sign this petition for reform to let your voice be heard, and join one of these self-help groups.

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

Free at Last Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/623703881470577/?ref=share

Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide

https://www.udprep.info/june

Bluegreen Facebook

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

Wyndham Facebook

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/  

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Inside Timeshare Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2213231165610648/

Once again thank you Patty for taking the time to attend the trial and submitting your report, itjust unfortunate that it was not the result that Inside Timeshare and our readers had hoped for. We must also give Candace a very big thank you for having the courage to take on the big boys, we all hope that you will now move on and rebuild your life.

If you have any comments or views on this or any other article published, please do use our contact page and let us know.

That is it for this week, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot: Manifesto Part 1

After we published our interpretation of Florida HB 435, Inside Timeshare received the following Manifesto written by an Industry Insider. Part I examines the history of exit companies. Of note is the mention of the role private equity plays in today’s timeshare industry. Private equity firms played a major role in the junk bond debacle of the 80s and the subprime mortgage crisis of the 90s, so it is of no surprise to find private equity firms directing timeshare today. A junk bond or a subprime mortgage had some value for the borrower, but a timeshare contract, often adding up to $100,000 or more, is worth next to nothing should the borrower need to sell.

We look forward to Part II in which today’s author hopes to, “draw public comment for a new Business Proposal to remedy and resolve the issues.”

Florida HB 435 addresses timeshare exit services

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

MANIFESTO

Timeshare Exit Companies and the Future of Timeshare

WHAT DO THIRD PARTY TIMESHARE EXIT COMPANIES (“TPE”) TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE TIMESHARE INDUSTRY?

Part 1.

By Anonymous.

Our Questions;

 

  • Are Third Party Exit (“TPE”) companies selling a product that is largely undeliverable?
  • If the product is undeliverable are all remaining TPE’s simply exhausted Ponzi schemes awaiting implosion and bankruptcy?
  • How many Customers in the last 12-48 months have paid thousands of dollars for services yet remain unresolved, un-exited, un-refunded, and are still on the hook for their timeshares?
  • How large is this Exodus?

 

In this manifesto we shall attempt to break down into layman’s terms the causes and effects on the Timeshare Industry at the hands of the so-called third-party timeshare exit companies or “TPE’s” and eventually in Part Two, draw public comment for a new business proposal to remedy and resolve some of the issues.

We shall also reminisce at some of the more notable examples of earlier ill-fated timeshare exit businesses, all of whom reveal the starkest of similarities. In doing so, we will also be commenting on the chest-beater from the Industry in the form of a Sept 17th 2018 public release. Sadly, we shall also be debating the unconventional elephant that still sits in the room.

  • Why is there such resistance to owners exiting a Timeshare?  
  • Why is there no organized, unionized, “brand supported” exit & secondary market offering that satisfies the disposal needs of owners who are aged, retired, unwanted beneficiaries of, no longer travel or are on Federal poverty levels?  

 “On Sept 17th 2108 the Timeshare industry, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) and ARDA Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC), have united to stop the misconduct of those deceiving timeshare owners into paying for illusory timeshare exit services through fraudulent means”.

I applaud the Industry on the use of the word “illusory’ as defined as: based on illusion; not real.” In what appears to be a long overdue case of karma, the timeshare industry is altruistically defending its long suffering, desperate “exiting and cancelling” owners from paying for illusory exit & cancellation services.  

(We don’t know who is more naïve; the Resorts for expecting that no one can ever get out of a Timeshare, or the deluge of Owners who paid upfront to try to get out!)

We speculate that in the last 36 months a crescendo aggregating to millions of owners had the audacity to want to end their Timeshare experience and as a result many hired Lawyers and Advocates and spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to get rid of their timeshares. Most of these fees were paid upfront, and most were promised that fees were 100% refundable if the exit contract expires and one still owns one’s timeshare assuming the Lawyer or Advocate is actually still in business!

Customers are asked to pay $7500 or more ‘upfront’ to be represented or advocated. Most marketers claim that there are magical back passages into resorts that take back the timeshares quietly in a forbidden black market open to only the special few. Marketers support this notion by suggesting that if the resorts were to publicly announce that they take back timeshares there would be an immense exodus of cancellations. No present evidence supports this tall tale.  

The Timeshare Industry is familiar with the exiting, canceling or generally getting out of a timeshare scam. As we can see Timeshares are complex and very sticky to get rid of. The Industry continues putting TPE lawyers and advocates out of business and into bankruptcy, yet the Industry cannot find a solution to the real problem – an evident immense Exodus.

Nothing, other than Moses leaving Egypt could be compared to the TPE Companies assault on popular branded timeshare owners in 2015 – 2018. All the major brands had rolled out vacation club programs with all types of new generation upsells and exchanges. Publicly traded companies in the hotel, recreation, leisure and timeshare industries had begun curiously separating their timeshare divisions into new public companies. Yet at conventions, the Resort Owners, Lawyers and Administrators all reported that their biggest headaches were the Exit firms. Their disruptive activities caused added administration issues, defaults, millions in lost revenues, angry customers all dealing with these flimsy cancellation letters from dozens of Lawyers and hundreds of Advocates interrupting contractual obligations and communication with the customers. They all knew where this would end…owners were paying thousands upfront for services that weren’t going to happen. Owners were routinely signing and notarizing Powers of Attorney to exit companies like they were signing Christmas cards! This wasn’t a cottage industry any more. It was an epidemic that had to be eliminated.

Apollo Global Management, owner of privatized Diamond Resorts (who as Merchant Bankers were possibly the first well-known brand to recognize the sudden disparity in results and the probable cause), began aggressively suing TPE Lawyers & Advocate Company’s in 2015. Apollo has made it known that they are preparing to re-IPO Diamond Resorts

  • The cause; The Timeshare Developer/Owner HOA true concerns are the financial effect that an immense Exodus of Owners and the sudden loss of payment of residual annual fees would have on the bottom line.
  • The effect; The Timeshare Industry has adopted a widely “illiquid” stance based on the capture of customers annual fees. The Timeshare industry survives in a very large part from customers annual maintenance fees.

Where did this idea of how to bilk the Timeshare Industry come from?  

In 2004, Uri Fried, an Israeli businessman and so-called inventor of the Third-Party Exit (TPE) business sent millions of postcards to timeshare owners inviting them to get rid of their timeshares for an upfront fee. Uri had formed over 50 straw buyers LLCs and began transferring thousands of unwanted timeshares per month into his LLCs. For several years Uri’s activity went relatively unnoticed by developers and resorts. Along the way Uri sold timeshares on eBay for $1 thus cementing the perceived market value of second-hand timeshare at one-dollar. None of Uri’s LLC’s ever paid a cent in maintenance to any resorts. Uri ended up serving a couple of years for $1.9m tax evasion.

In 2017 Uri settled all misrepresentation charges with the State of Wisconsin for $132,000 and received a lifelong ban from ever handling timeshares again. None of Uri’s ill-gotten gains were ever recovered.

Uri Fried woke the Industry up to the vulnerability of the Viking Ship LLC exit scam. The Resorts & HOAs were so fragmented. Collectively, they had no clue what Uri was up to. Uri’s customers owned everything and anything. Uri knew he was never going to pay a penny in dues or maintenance, so he stuffed them all into his defaulting LLCs. If the Resorts grew suspicious of the LLC name(s) Uri would simply create new ones.

Eventually the resorts smartened up and unilaterally responded by refusing to honor or acknowledge transfers to certain suspicious names and eventually certain transfer companies. The Developers had falsely believed that some level of organic secondary market had been occurring. As the industry is so hugely fragmented the major developers were fooled for a while.

As we shall see, the Viking Ship LLC model grinds slowly to a halt when the resorts block or refuses customer re-registrations and transfers. However, the TPE’s marketing machines continue “in almost every case” to sell new Customers on getting rid of their timeshares, in order to continue to collect thousands in what surely become ill-gotten fees, thus becoming a Ponzi scheme; whereby new monies pay off older refunds.

After the failure of Uri Fried’s business, an alternative Viking ship business became strongly marketed; Attorneys claiming to ‘cancel’ a timeshare.

On behalf of Owners who retained the firm, Castle Law (and others similar) wrote to the HOA’s and Resorts and in some cases Lenders, a series of scalding, lawyerly stamped, heavily embossed, important looking letters accusing and maligning the Resorts with allegations of much malfeasance, misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement.  

Owners were claiming any or all of the following:

  • Told that this offer is good for today only.  
  • Told that timeshare is in hot demand
  • Told that timeshare is a great investment
  • Told that timeshare – like all real estate will appreciate over time.  
  • Told the timeshare presentation is only going to be 90 minutes.
  • Told the timeshare is in such demand it could always be RENTED for a profit.
  • Told that you are buying pre-construction and this timeshare can be SOLD for a profit after the next “phase.”  
  • Told that this week/resort is such a valuable week to all of the exchange companies that you can trade for “anytime, anywhere.”  
  • Told that this maintenance fee will not increase over time
  • Told you will be attending an “update” to discuss questions (also called a policy change, owners update, etc.… – later it was actually a sales presentation).  
  • Told that this is not timeshare but Vacation Ownership or Vacation Property.  
  • (You) were subjected to high pressure sales tactics or felt that you could not leave the presentation without purchasing timeshare.
  • The timeshare sales agents plied you with champagne (or other alcohol or drugs).
  • The timeshare sales agents assured you, you could cancel if we had second thoughts/buyer’s remorse.  

Attorneys and Advocates, armed with Limited Power of Attorney, filed cease and desists on behalf of owners. Attorneys were demanding that the Resort have no communication with the aggrieved customer (s). Simultaneously, customers were instructed not to communicate with their resort, and to forward any communication from the resort to the attorney or advocate.

It wasn’t long before far less scholarly ‘advocates’ caught on to the jolly wheeze and suddenly millions of timeshare data records were for sale and hundreds of thousands of robo dialed calls an hour were being made to every timeshare owner looking for people who wanted to get out of their timeshares.

Unbelievably, millions of owners wanted out.

In the words of ReedHein dba Timeshare Exit Team CEO & timeshare exit Advocate Brandon Reed;

The reality behind the recent litigation is that resorts are leaving millions of consumers with no other options. Timeshare Exit Team exists because the resorts have created a problem without providing a solution. We hear countless stories from customers who were unable to even give back their ownership. Others have found that their timeshare investment was actually worthless when  they tried to resell it. Owners must have a way to safely and legally end their ownership when it no longer fits their lifestyle. Until that happens, we want to make it clear that we will not be dissuaded from continuing to advocate for consumers.”

Reed Hein are the guys advertising on TV. Estimates show that ReedHein is now the largest timeshare cancellation firm in the USA. We wonder what ReedHein is doing differently from Uri Fried, The Macmillan’s, ACC and other notable predecessors.       

Ok, why isn’t there a secondary market for Timeshare?

The Timeshare Industry publicly abhors any notion of a secondary market almost as much as the Wicked Witch of the West abhors water.

Why? …It’s so simple.

Let’s say you buy a Westgate ‘second hand’ at 90% off current Westgate prices from eBay.

  1. Westgate gets no new dollars from that exchange, Westgate gets a new Customer, the perception of “secondary market” timeshare true value is realized,
  2. Westgate takes on the risk that you will or won’t pay its annual fee’s.

Unlike the auto business, the timeshare core product is the same in “both Primary & Secondary Markets,” the most glaring disparity is price.

All the frontloaded exorbitant sales commissions, fees, marketing expenses and popping champagne are in the primary market versus a vast global array of venue choices at huge discounts available in the Secondary Market.

Sadly, developers use punitive measures to hamper and deter secondary market purchases of Points based/Club, Right to Use contracts by restricting further points accumulation (s), restricting booking access or exchange, restricting access to deed back and contract back programs, voiding visiting guest rental certificates and other contractual privileges. Certain developers’ restrictions have been described as downright draconian!   

The Industry publicly states in countless SEC filings that a Secondary Market would cut deeply into the Industries profitability. We can see why they would be worried.

In SEC filings:

  • “…the resale market for VOI’s (vacation ownership interests) could adversely affect our business” (Bluegreen)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market could negatively impact our sales” (Wyndham)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market by existing owners could cause our sales revenues and profits to decline” (Starwood)

Source – EDGAR.

In loosely translated SEC language that means the entire industry agrees with the notion that a secondary market should not exist, and they will stamp on the windpipe of any attempt to conjure a secondary market.  

This cannibalistic, illusory industry has a bone through its nose! As the industry makes sweeping, ubiquitous, cannibalizing, business decisions we urge serious consideration to the real threat to the future bottom line. As the Industry has discovered, there is a serious flaw to timeshare. Having built these lavish, illusory, granulated palaces, one must continue to sell to new mug punters who are still naive enough to sit through a bruising several hours long presentation and then when sufficiently punch drunk, pick up a pen and sign complex contracts that one has never read nor had the opportunity to do so, nor to many if read would actually comprehend. This is the sales model of the Primary Timeshare market? Is this the best they’ve got?

Possibly that’s the reason behind the aforementioned public company players in timeshare creating new public companies for their Timeshare only assets. Maybe they also see the writing on the wall of this woeful sales channel and are protecting their other core assets from devaluation.

After all, how many mug-punters could there possibly be?   

In a 2017 Orlando Sentinel News story, Mr. & Mrs. Morrison stated they are horrified by what they did on their last vacation to a Wyndham Resort in Orlando. They paid $25,000 to buy a timeshare, after a four-hour sales pitch that wore down the couple’s resistance and skepticism. Now they’re being hounded by people promising to get them out of the contract — if they pay an up-front fee. They don’t want to pay out any more money and aren’t sure who to trust. “We can’t afford this,” said Morrison, 69, who lives near Ottawa, Ontario. She says Wyndham offered to put them in a program that will eventually allow them to sell their timeshare, but they aren’t sure how long it will take. “Why won’t someone help us and put a stop to this?” she said. Wyndham didn’t respond to questions about the Morrisons’ case.

As if the Industry abandoning its aged, non-using, beneficiary owned and generally unwanted/unaffordable owners wasn’t bad enough, the Industry thwarts every attempt to stop an immense Exodus creating a need for Lawyers, Advocates and evidently miscreants and swindlers.

If Timeshare is an investment in making memories in people’s lives then shouldn’t it know when it has outstayed its welcome?

This of course is all karmically comical as the Timeshare Industry has cut its teeth on brutally sharp practices of high-pressure selling techniques, flogging its wares in well documented grueling four or five hour long “90” minute information breakfasts.

The Industry is undeniably infamous for pitching heat. Sales offices manned with trained professionals are often well trained in manipulative sales techniques. These timeshare hit-men pitch to the giddy, all too often inebriated, vacation-minded unaware prospects. It has been alleged that commission driven sales people often misrepresent overly complex customers contracts, agreements, loan documents, mortgage addendums all of which are tragically packaged by Closers, TO’s (Take Overs), Hail Mary’s and Managers at a table somewhere in a Timeshare sales room. Their only compensation is the commission from a sale.

Can you hear the champagne popping corks now?

The Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred attorney Judson Wheeler Phillips, founder of the Castle Law Group, on a myriad of charges relating to consumer fraud complaints. In the past few weeks, Castle Law Group has ceased business operations following federal lawsuits brought by developers against Castle Law Group and those acting in concert with the firm.

Wyndham’s pursuit of American Consumer Credit (“ACC”), ACC’s principal, Dana Micaleff and attorney, Michael Saracco, resulted in ACC filing bankruptcy on September 7, 2018. Attorney Michael Sarocco, stated that Canadian entrepreneur Micallef always had “good intentions”, however things fell apart when developers and resorts wouldn’t allow ACC’s clients to break their contracts.

Castle Law & Judson Phillips were among the pioneers of the timeshare law firm and the cancellation business. Castle law had dozens of tertiary businesses who were marketing Castle Law services. These marketing firms fed Castle Law with thousands of desperate owners who were willing to pay $7500 or more “upfront” to exit their contracts.

In order to understand the scale of timeshare in the USA, the Timeshare Industry does about a $9billion a year in gross revenue. About 9.4million ownerships exist. There are approximately 1600 resorts. Average maintenance is approximately $900 a year. The Industry aggregates approximately $8.5billion from maintenance annually.

A typical single resort’s simple deed math would look like this:

  •         Typical Timeshare Resort – Individual Condo Units Per Resort: 500 units
  •         Weeks for Sale Per Unit: 50 weeks 500 x 50 = 25,000 Weeks for Sale
  •         Average sales price per week: $ 25,000
  •         25,000 weeks’ x $25,000 = $ 625,000,000 developer receipts
  •         Plus 25,000 weeks x $900 maintenance p/a = $22,500,000 per year.

In a new improved version of Uri Fried’s Viking LLC scheme; David and Cindy Macmillan sent millions of solicitation postcards and letters to Timeshare owners enticing them to attend informational meetings that led to “exiting their timeshare with 100% money back guarantee.”

The MacMillans ran a bunch of Viking Ship LLCs and their own transfer company in a timeshare transfer operation that resort owners alleged was bilking the industry out of hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of about nine years.

In 2008, spurred on by a failing economy and the USA housing crisis, the MacMillans operated over 65 straw buyer LLCs claiming that in exchange for several thousand dollars upfront, owners could be released from any timeshare contract. The MacMillan’s prize-winning company based in Torrance, California held sales meetings for owners by the bus load. Hundreds would cram in waving their credit cards in readiness. The MacMillan’s charged $6000 or more and allegedly mishandled over 120,000 timeshare contracts before becoming the target of the Attorney General of California. RICO allegations from Plaintiff Wyndham Hotel & Resorts proved undefendable. The MacMillans were banned from the business. They didn’t pay a single cent to the resorts in maintenance. Most of MacMillan’s eager customers found they were still on the hook for their timeshares. David MacMillan filed bankruptcy in 2016. Once again millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains went unrecovered. In a karmic twist of fate, Macmillan’s own transfer agent transferred thousands of the Macmillan’s Viking LLCs timeshares back into the original owners’ names before leaving the scene of the crime and left the Macmillans to take the fall.          

By 2014 Timeshare Exit marketing companies had mushroomed up all over central and south Florida, Tennessee and Missouri. Most of the new crops were marketing firms owned and run by seasoned telemarketing recidivists or by ex-timeshare sales people, some of whom had access to valuable owner data. The marketers, mostly acting as advocates, fed a variety of attorneys and both shared in the customer fees.  

In call center parlance this new business represented a new ‘data’ vertical. Call centers that had previously run ‘data’ looking for mortgage consolidation or debt relief were suitably adaptable for Timeshare Exit marketing. The busted timeshare Resale/Rental telephone scams that had left many recently unemployed in south and central Florida simply redeployed themselves. Some sales people told sad stories of repenting for all the lies they had told while selling Timeshare.    

In Phillips’ case, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Phillips after reviewing upwards of 18 client complaints, many of which made similar allegations of fraud, highlighting a pattern and practice of misconduct. In its ruling, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that Phillips “poses a threat of substantial harm to the public.” Central to the series of complaints were allegations that Phillips and his business partners misled and/or defrauded consumers by taking exorbitant fees from timeshare owners for purported timeshare exit or cancellation services based upon fraudulent and misleading representations.

The ACC case is based on various legal theories, some of which are founded in Federal law, known as the “Lanham Act of False Advertising”. The case remains pending against Micaleff, individually, and Saracco, individually, although an automatic stay has been issued relative to ACC in the U.S. District Court action as a result of the bankruptcy filing. That, however, has not deterred the prosecution of the case. As of today, there is a motion pending against Micaleff and Saracco to punish them for, among other things, failing to appear for a deposition.

The Industries press release further commented;

“The constant pressure that our member companies, owners and federal and state agencies are putting on disreputable timeshare exit companies has again produced a positive result for the consumer,” said Robert Clements, ARDA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs.

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of,” said Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations.”

Diamond Resorts implemented an aggressive litigation strategy in pursuit of third-party exit companies for their nefarious and unlawful conduct in an effort to protect the interest of their members who were promised outcomes that could not be legally accomplished.

The number of customers who “wish to exit” an owned, fully paid up timeshare is an immense Exodus. Far higher than was ever imagined or projected by the industry. The elephant in the room is that there is still no safe exit from unwanted timeshares and no robust market with which to capture and reposition the unwanted timeshares.

In light of the recently filed Florida House Bill 435, one must question the fates of the remaining exit and cancellation firms including; Resort Release LLC, The Newton Group & Reed Hein AKA Timeshare Exit Team amongst others.   

It is obvious by the recent advertising budgets expended on TV, Radio and all other assorted media, along with the number of employees and general expenses to run these TPE’s that there are probably millions of Owners who have already paid Fees to exit or dispose of a timeshare in the last 12-36 months that are as-yet unresolved and may begin actions suing for refunds. The Term of a TPE’s contract generally offered is 12-18 months. We are sure many contracts have now been extended far beyond their legal limits. All the previously named TPE’s and Law firms offered a 100% refund upon eventual nonperformance, assuming they were still in business.

By monitoring the largest TPEs on social media and by paying particular attention to present and past customers reviews, it is evident that satisfaction is extremely low and that refunds are aggressively being sought. How many hundreds of complaints like these does it take before another AG steps in or another exit company gets driven to bankruptcy by an aggrieved resort or the FTC?

Here’s what we know.

Exit firms can’t get rid of your timeshare unless the resort ‘wants them back.’ Most Timeshares are indeed worthless. All timeshares come with some form of annual cost. In light of 2018’s vacationing and travelling popular habits, the notion of paying an annual fee is not popular or appears economically attractive.  

It may well be true to say that all TPEs charge upfront fees for truly illusionary services because they now know within a moral certainty that their customers will get nothing for their money.

One would have imagined that Timeshare Developers, being an enterprising bunch, would have figured out how to ‘selectively take in’ enough exits & cancels to quell this Exodus problem. This sensible move would have made the TPEs redundant and quickly ended the third party exit business by allowing worthwhile and fitting exits for owners, for a small fee.  

This, however, further highlights the possible size of the immense Exodus problem.

Thank you to our new contributor, at some point he will reveal himself, but we look forward to Part Two of the Manifesto.

Remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.

If you purchased your timeshare in Spain or upgraded after 5 January 1999 and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.

 

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome Pete Gibbes, with another Secret Shopper report. Pete as Secret Shopper Coordinator, has revised the secret shopper questions, this is part 1.

But first a quick summary of some news from the Spanish Courts. Canarian Legal Alliance has reported that last week they received eleven (11) new sentences, these were against Anfi Del Mar, Silverpoint and Petchey Leisure. Once again the courts have declared the contracts null and void, plus ordering the return of substantial sums of money to the clients, with this week alone over 340,000€ having been awarded.

Over the next 30 days, CLA have informed Inside Timeshare of the number of trial and pre-trials they have in various courts around Spain, it is a staggering 101! That is certainly keeping the judicial system busy.

Their execution of sentence department headed by Cristina Batista and Judith Diaz Pascual, have filed “provisional executions”, with a total worth of over 6 million euros against all major timeshare resorts. The total value is over 6.000.000,00 € and is against all of mayor timeshare resorts.

These execution orders are made in the interests of the clients and ensure that the resorts payout what they have been ordered to.

Now for this weeks article.

Secret Shopper Questions Revised, the Backstory – Part I

Part II – Friday February 8, Secret Shopper Questions

By Pete Gibbes, Secret Shopper Coordinator

January 29, 2019

I previously wrote about a positive timeshare sales presentation I attended not long ago in Sedona, Arizona. I mentioned that my Diamond Resorts sales agent and manager expressed shock and dismay at the misrepresentations we told them we experienced at a November 18, 2016 Virginia sales presentation. The Sedona agents stated that they were appalled and determined they would go to bat for me by contacting headquarters. I was asked to write out my complaint. Wary but hopeful, I waited. As expected, nothing happened.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-29/

To recap what happened at the 2016 Virginia presentation, we attended a member update hoping to learn about how to get rid of 11,500 timeshare points we had previously purchased. After several hours our sales agent had an epiphany. He recalled a new program that would give us the option to sell ALL of our points back to Diamond Resorts! We listened to three more hours of this agent’s version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. After the sixth repetition, we became convinced this program existed. He told us, (and wrote down on a paper), a figure of $108,000 which was the amount he said we should be able to sell our points back for in three years. While I presently cannot locate the paper with $108,000 written on it, I do still have this agent’s “pencil pitch” indicating a “value” of $72k ($72,420 to be exact if you multiply the 8,500 points proposed times $8.52 per point). A formal proposal containing the exact numbers was presented, but that document is proprietary so we cannot present in this article. Diamond will argue that $8.52 per point represents “retail” not “resale” value, but I contend not disclosing Diamond points are virtually worthless is a material omission. Licensed timeshare brokers I contacted, who do not charge upfront money to list timeshare points, will not accept a listing for Diamond points.

Diamond Resorts has launched a program called CLARITY™ promising clear, concise, transparent and accountable information.  This is what I was provided:

At the bottom of this unclear pencil pitch, you see “G 2” and “S 3”, and below that ‘Loyalty 3 ys’. This meant that in 3 years we would have earned enough loyalty to sell the points back at a handsome profit. If we became Gold, we could sell back in two years. According to the sales agent, this new buyback policy was not available to mere Standard members like us who owned less than 15,000 points. We agreed to buy 4000 points for $15,500 to become coveted Silver members in order to qualify for the buyback program.

When I complained to Diamond I was told I did not have sufficient written evidence. I made up G2 and S3?

I remember asking the sales agent how Diamond could afford to offer a $108,000 buyback which could have exceeded our cumulative purchase price plus maintenance fees. He mentioned investment returns Diamond makes on sales. As an MBA and a CFP this made sense to me, as it made sense to George Yamada, a pension administrator who purchased Diamond points thinking he was making an investment. George is an Army veteran, Agent Orange disabled.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-5/

It appears I was not the only member excited about how this ingenious new buyback program was going to make their product more attractive to buyers. The sales agent, Mark Wilkerson, no longer works for Diamond, but he explained the program as a brand new Apollo related deal. Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, acquired Diamond Resorts.

Does Diamond think I would go to this much trouble if I was making this up? Under threat of perjury, I have filed a complaint with the Virginia Attorney General’s office that has been under review.

Unfortunately, I do not possess a video tape of the presentation. This has prompted me to volunteer to be our Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’m on a media binge to warn other timeshare buyers to RECORD THE SALES SESSION! This is legal in Virginia as Virginia, like some other states, is a one party state. I feel this is the only road to true clarity.

https://www.justanswer.com/law/4cemo-illegal-audio-record-someone-virginia-without.html

Not only did we pay $15,500 for nothing, we incurred additional ongoing maintenance fees and $2,250 in income taxes on a retirement distribution I had to make to pay for the purchase.

I asked for the contract to be cancelled and my down payment refunded. I am asking nothing for my permanent loss of faith in humanity. Like several members of our 2,400 member sponsored Diamond Facebook page, I am disabled. My sole source of income is my SSI disability income. I have learned from our Facebook other timeshare companies also respond to complaints with, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” and “You signed a contract.” I received a certified letter from Diamond’s legal department (Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Officer) asking for written evidence. I provided the pencil pitch above, but even that does not break through the oral representation clause.   

Timeshare sales agents are not supposed to deviate from company approved sales strategies, but complaints from timeshare buyers continue to flood the internet, Attorneys General offices, the Better Business Bureau and other regulatory agencies. With little enforcement, we feel members need to take matters into their own hands by becoming Secret Shoppers so we can evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.

We have about a dozen Secret Shoppers. We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions timeshare buyers often forget to ask. It is our hope we can publish some positive Secret Shopper experiences. After compiling over 500 timeshare complaints, we have determined the most popular complaints involve:

  • Maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist,
  • The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
  • Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset maintenance fees,

Having run on for many words describing what was supposed to be a brief introduction to our Secret Shopper questions; Friday, February 8 we will publish our revised Secret Shopper questions as a Part II to this article.

Contact me at Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.

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 Pete, we look forward to part 2 next month.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare, we welcome your input.

Do you have any questions regarding your timeshare, how can you get out or if you have a valid claim, then again use our contact page, we will try to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. Remember, not everything you will be told by many of these companies touting for business will be true, most will only be after your money, so do your homework and do your due diligence.