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Arizona Consumer Fraud Act

The Tuesday Slot with Irene: Lawsuit Filed Against Diamond Resorts

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker, as this is breaking news and an important story,  we go straight into her article and will catch up with Europe in Wednesdays publication.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Diamond Resorts

This action alleges Defendant’s sold unregistered securities in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 that requires that any securities sold in the United States be registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission

Factual Allegations of False Representations

(i) DRI points appreciate in value

(ii) DRI points can be readily sold

(iii) DRI points are a hedge against inflation

(iv) DRI points constitute an appreciating asset that DRI members can pass along to heirs.

By Irene Parker

February 13, 2018

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Diamond Resorts. It’s not easy to make your way through a 43 page complaint, so after I digested it, I cut and pasted the complaint so I can understand it.

Inside Timeshare has received 292 Diamond Resorts complaints, 48 since the first of the year. Diamond has implemented a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to address member concerns, and has implemented a CLARITY™ program designed to promote “transparency, accountability, and respect for the customer.” Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued Diamond an Assurance of Discontinuance in 2017 after his office received hundreds of complaints from Diamond members accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The company did not admit wrongdoing.

To follow the progress of the case, Diamond members or industry observers are encouraged to join our member sponsored Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook established February 17, 2017.

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

Case 2:18-cv-00247 filed February 9, 2018 in United States District Court, District of Nevada

Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP

Albright, Stoddard Warnick & Albright

Plaintiffs:  Joseph M Dropp, Mary E Dropp, Robert Levine, Susan Levine, and Kaarina Pakka, Individually and on Behalf of All others similarly situated

v.

Diamond Resorts International, Inc.;

Diamond Resorts Holdings, LLC;

Diamond Resorts Corporation;

Diamond Resorts International Club, Inc., a/k/a “THE Club” Operating Company

Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, LLC;

Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Members Association

Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Development, LLC

Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Members Association

Apollo Management VIII, L.P.,

Apollo Global Management, LLC

Michael Flaskey

Kenneth Siegel

Excerpts from the complaint:

The lawsuit alleges almost none of the Class members are aware that they have purchased an unregistered security under the Security Act of 1933.

  1. The arbitration clause does not apply

The entire Agreement – including the arbitration clause – is void and unenforceable under federal securities law. 10

Class Action Allegations

Common questions of law and fact include, without limitation, the following:

  1. Whether the points in a U.S. Collection Members Association, the Hawaii Collection and/or THE Club constitute securities under the Securities Act;
  2. Whether DRI violated the registration provision of the Securities Act;
  3. Whether a common practice of DRI employees and/or agents to potential investors was to make representations that “points” are investments that will appreciate in value due to the efforts of DRI as set forth herein; and
  4. The nature of relief that may be granted to Plaintiffs and the Class under the Securities Act.

Similarly situated persons:

All persons who purchased “points in THE Club and membership in a Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Members Association or in the Diamond Resorts Hawaii Collection Members Association on or after three years prior to date filing of this complaint. Excluded from the Class are Defendants and any of their affiliate’s current and former employees, officers and directors.

  1. A “Pricing History and Location Growth for DRI” shows how the DRI points have increased and will increase in value over time.  A recent version states that between January 26, 2013 and January 1, 2017, DRI points in the U.S. Collection:  “15% Price per point increase in less than three years” with an “average” increase of 25%. Finally, the document states that points purchased “today” at $8.61 per point will be “worth” $10.76 per point in one year, and $13.45 in two years.

 

9. The Securities Act, passed in response to the stock market crash of 1929, was caused in part by issuers selling stock or other investments based on false representations, without disclosure of material information, and/or without and continuing reporting obligations.

10. Defendants are selling purchasers investment contracts, and hence securities, even if they are not explicitly described as such and even though the written contracts contradict in part the promises of the sales pitch.

Lead Plaintiffs

The Dropp Plaintiffs, New York residents, were initially owners of an unrelated timeshare purchased in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Kill Devil, North Carolina, through Gold Key Resort, subsequently acquired by Diamond Resorts on or about August 4, 2016. At an “update meeting” the Dropps were told that failure to purchase DRI points would render the Dropp’s existing timeshare membership useless or worthless.  The Dropp’s purchased points:  

8,500 U.S. Collection points purchased for $25,710 in Virginia August 6, 2016

A few hours after this purchase, they received a phone call from DRI insisting they were required to schedule an “orientation” with DRI that would take place in Las Vegas.

50,000 additional U.S. Collection points purchased for $140,000 in Las Vegas November 9, 2016

According to the complaint, a DRI salesperson took Plaintiffs to a private office, and made, inter alia (among other things), the following representations if they purchased DRI points:

  • He described DRI points as an investment.
  • He stated the Dropps would own an interest in real property.
  • He said that these additional points in DRI, plus the 8,500 points already owned, would be worth approximately $700,000 of “equity.”
  • He said that the value of the points would increase over time due to the improvements and updates that DRI continuously made to their properties.
  • He indicated that the points (and the “properties”) should be added to the the Dropp’s wills and could be bequeathed to their children and grandchildren.
  • He stated that the points could be sold for a profit in the future.
  • He informed the Dropps that they could use their DRI credit card for purchases and earn (wholly separate) points, which could be applied to their maintenance fees. Contrary to the DRI salesperson’s representations, in no way do purchases made on the DRI credit card offset or absolve the Dropp’s obligation to pay their annual maintenance fees.  

The Levine Plaintiffs, California residents

The Levines had acquired 35,000 US Collection points by 2016.

Purchased 35,000 Hawaii Collection points for $84,650 in Kona, Hawaii October 25, 2016

A DRI sales agent represented to the Levine Plaintiffs that:

  • They should convert all of Susan Levine’s points in the U.S. Collection to the Hawaii Collection because points in the Hawaii Collection would appreciate faster than points in the U.S. Collection due to the fact that there is limited real estate in Hawaii, causing real estate values to continue to rise.
  • Their points could be passed down to heirs and heirs could sell points at a profit.
  • They would have to purchase more points to convert their U.S. Collection points to Hawaii Collection points.
  • If they purchased points in the Hawaii Collection immediately, they would purchase at a “low price” because the price per point was steadily increasing.

Purchased 25,000 U.S. Collection points for $71,250 in Miami May 11, 2017

A DRI sales agent represented to them:

  • Points in the U.S. Collection are actually more valuable than points in the Hawaii Collection because the U.S. Collection requires the payment of lower maintenance fees.
  • Points purchased in the U.S. Collection are steadily increasing in value and could be sold at a profit in the future.
  • However, in order to convert their points in the Hawaii Collection to points in the U.S. Collection, they would need to purchase additional points in the U.S. Collection.

Purchased 50,000 U.S. Collection points for $144,000 in Las Vegas at Polo Towers July 11, 2017

A DRI sales agent represented to them:

  • DRI was implementing a new “Legacy Program” designed to operate as an estate planning device beginning January 2018. Through the Legacy Program, DRI itself would sell up to 20,000 of the Levine’s points at a price of $8.79 per point, generating a total sale price of $176,000, minus an estimated escrow fee. The profit would be passed along to the Levines, and they would not have to do anything other than contact DRI to commence the selling of points. However, in order to participate in the Legacy Program, the Levines would have to purchase 50,000 additional appoints in the U.S. Collection.
  • If the Levines or their heirs wished to sell all of their points in the future, DRI would “handle” the sale and sell the points at a price of $8.79 per point for a total amount of $1,230,000 minus closing costs.
  • Additionally, if the Levines purchased 50,000 additional points in the U.S. Collections that day, they could covert up to 80,000 of the DRI points to a credit on this Diamond credit card and could use that credit to pay their annual maintenance fees.
  • Again, the Levines were told that prices per point in the U.S. Collection were constantly increasing and they had to purchase points that day in order to reap the benefits of this investment.

When the Levines attempted to sell points, they were informed that no such program existed, and that DRI would not make any attempts to sell points.  In addition, no program existed by which the Levines could convert some of their points to a credit card and sue that credit to pay their maintenance fees.

The Pakka Plaintiff, original Sunterra owners, converted to 30,000 U.S. Collection points.  

Purchased 50,000 Hawaii points for $175,356 in Maui on November 16, 2016

A DRI salesperson represented to Plaintiff Pakka that:

  • DRI points were an “investment” that would increase in value over time. Plaintiff Pakka was provided with a “Pricing History and Location Growth for Diamond Resorts International” document which projects how much value the points will gain over time.
  • The value of her points “can only go up.”
  • She would have “no problem” selling her points.
  1. Diamond is in the business of selling “points”, which are marketed to prospective purchasers as an investment which will appreciate in value and can be easily resold. Diamond sells points to new point purchasers, as well as existing owners, in person, at sales centers in several Diamond resorts throughout the United States.
  2. Prior to the 60 to 90 minutes sales presentation, no contract or other official DRI document describing the terms of the point investment is provided to the prospective purchasers until the time of closing.
  3. Vacation counselors’ sales presentation exceed 90 minutes and often last five to six hours in length or longer. Moreover, DRI tells prospective purchasers that they will forfeit their benefits if they leave the sales presentation before the respective sales people agree that the presentation is over. Prospective purchaser are not permitted to take any contract, information sheets, Purchase and Security Agreements, Credit Sales Contracts, notes, or other written materials with them off premises prior to closing, nor are prospective purchasers given time to consult with their own advisors, attorney, or any other person during the sales presentation.
  4. DRI pitches its points as an investment that will appreciate in value due to continuing improvements made by Diamond in the quality and number of its resort and hotel properties, the general appreciation of real estate in the future and the managerial skill that DRI provides in operating the properties. The unwitting targets are told that by purchasing points “now” the purchasers will receive a discounted purchase price that is only available on the day of the sales presentation; they are investing in their future; their points will increase in value; they can use points to pay annual maintenance fees, they can bequeath the points to their heirs as an inheritance and they can sell their points – at a profit – at any time. Thus, these points are actually investment contracts and therefore securities, under the United States securities laws.
  5. Once the purchasers agrees to purchase points, they are individually shepherded to a sales center “quality control” person, whose job it is to obtain the purchaser’s signature on a lengthy, densely worded sales contract (the PSA) and to instruct the purchaser to initial numerous items on a lengthy information sheet. (Often the initials are generated electronically by the sales people for the purchasers’ “convenience”).  The closing documents contradict parts of what the prospective purchasers are told and/or shown during the sales presentations.
  6. Points can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the purchases are often financed by DRI at credit card interest rates. Maintenance fees have risen at a rate far higher and faster than ordinary inflation despite the economies of scale that DRI has in place to manage its properties.  Existing point purchasers are often induced to purchase additional points in order to reach “preferred” thresholds. DRI tells these point purchaser or members that if they buy more points, the DRI member will no longer be required to pay “maintenance” fees. By way of example, DRI investors are told that by becoming platinum members (50,000 point owners) the investors may redeem their points at the rate of 30 cents each to pay for maintenance fees. Since maintenance fees are currently approximately 18 cents each, the DRI investor is told that he or she can actually profit “off the spread” by purchasing more points. However, when DRI investors try to redeem points, they discover that there is no such program in place.
  7. Sales pitches regarding the investment value of the points are false. DRI points do not increase in value, there is no viable secondary market for them, and DRI severely restricts the resale of points. Moreover, DRI contracts or PSA last in perpetuity.

The amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, excluding interest and costs.

Business Model

VOI Vacation Ownership Interest Points

DRI does not refer to itself as a timeshare company

Nevada law protects timeshare owners of traditional timeshare that were fixed weeks, by prohibiting timeshare companies from selling more than 365 use-days in any particular property in any particular year.

  1. Investor-members purchasing points in Nevada are provided a form stating that the DRI salesperson is licensed real estate agent who has a fiduciary duty to disclose all facts material to the transaction, DRI points are in no way tied to the value of any real estate.
  2. The Convoluted Relationship between DRI, the Club, and the U.S. and Hawaii Collections
  3. The investor-member has no direct ownership interest in any real property. The real property is owned by or held by the trust, for the benefit of a Home Owners Association, in which the investor is a member solely by virtue of his or her ownership of points.
  4. DRI controls the votes electing the boards of directors for each Association. The board of every Association has hired DRI to provide management services for the Association – services for which DRI receives substantial fees.

III Points have no Intrinsic Value

IV The Onerous, Ongoing Cost of DRI Points and its Relationship to DRI’s Business Model

  1. DRI collects a property “management fee” of 10-15% per year of the costs of operating any resort in a Diamond Collection.
  2. Between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2015, DRI financed 74.5% of all its Membership sales. According to the restated financial statements, in the DRI 10k, DRI sold $624,283,000 of vacation interests in 2015.
  3. DRI relies upon a $100 million loan sale facility with Quorum Federal Credit Union.  “In the past, we have sold or securitized a substantial portion of the consumer loans we originated from our consumers.”4
  4. Unlike an interest rate for a home mortgage, affordability measures like debt to income ratios do not apply.
  5. In 2015 DRI sent IRS Form 1098 to investors setting forth the amount of mortgage interest (which is generally deductible) paid in a particular year.

IV The High-Pressure Sales Process

  1. 61 sales centers around the world, with a full in-house sales and marketing team at 49 locations, including Polo Towers.
  2. “Mini Vacation” packages lure prospective investors. If the target fails to attend the sales presentation, or leaves before the presentation has completed, the individual is told that he or she is responsible for paying the cost of the entire package.
  3. Points are being sold to them at a discount, so that they will have “equity” because they own interests that are worth more than the purchase price.

B DRI Salespeople State that there is a market for points, and DRI will help investor-members find buyers for their points.  

  1. DRI salespeople represent that they will help an investor-member sell their points which contradicts THE Club “Legal Documents” which state that “THE Club Operating Company has no obligation to assist a Member with the resale, lease or rental of his or her Qualifying Interest.”
  2. Timeshare Exit companies advise investor-members to simply stop making payments on their maintenance fees and/or loan. DRI then terminates the membership, recaptures the points (as recycled inventory) and then resells to new purchasers. The net result is that the purchasers lose their entire investment.

V Terms of the DRI Purchase and Security Agreements

A. The Member-Investor’s Right to Rescind the Agreement is Illusory

Click on the PDF file below to see the full document:

Complaint (JT Demanded) 2 9 18 A Filed #1

This is certainly a major story and Irene will be keeping us posted on any further news and developments.

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene, as you will see from her article this week there is certainly a lot going on across the Great Lake. For our US readers there is some very interesting information, it would seem that Inside Timeshare is certainly making an impact on timeshare consumers in the US.

On the European front, yesterday’s article regarding Anfi members complaints regarding availability, the article had a plethora of hits and likes on the associated Facebook page within the first hour. It also seems as though this topic hit home with our US readers as there were many from across the pond.

Yesterday we also had the first court ruling of the week, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Puerto Calma, declaring the contract null and void. The client in this case will be returned 16,000€ which is the purchase price, along with 3,600€ as double the deposit paid within the mandatory cooling off period. The court also awarded legal interest.

We will be keeping an eye on any latest rulings that come in and report them here, but now on with this weeks article by Irene Parker.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Proposed Committees and Support Groups

Volunt

January 23, 2018

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare is approaching 300 timeshare reader responses, responding to members asking for assistance with their timeshare concerns since we began counting late 2016. There is a need to scale up Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as we now have 44 core advocates dedicated to improving the timeshare sales process by working together as teams. We hope timeshare developers will acknowledge there are problems and work with us, to not only stop predatory backend “get you out of your timeshare” scams, but address the problem on the front end of the sale as well. Numerous calls to the FBI have been made, and they have encouraged timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, to contact their local FBI Field Office public access line to file orally, in addition to filing online at IC3.gov.

Diamond Resorts has taken the lead by launching a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department dedicated to helping timeshare members from day one if a member has any concerns about their membership or their purchase. They have also introduced CLARITY, a program designed to enhance accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.

https://www.loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/diamond-resorts-international-raises-the-bar-on-cu

Inside Timeshare has received complaints directed against four major timeshare companies. If timeshare developers and ARDA would take the time to read the following Better Business Bureau notations of “Government Action” and “Pattern of Complaints”, it is unreasonable to keep the blinders on by claiming there are no problems with the secondary market because sales centers are forever sales centers, and members should not expect value back for their timeshare because it is a “right to use” program. That would be fine were it not for the perpetual contract, often sold by false promises made by sales agents who know there is little chance of enforcement, as there is no federal enforcement, and state Attorneys General are limited in scope.

BBB warnings for Wyndham, Diamond Resorts, Bluegreen, and Vacation Village

Wyndham

Although the government action has been resolved from 2015, we included the warning to illustrate the tenure of the complaints.

Government Action

The following describes a government action that has been resolved by either a settlement or a decision by a court or administrative agency. If the matter is being appealed, it will be noted below.

Wisconsin – May 27, 2015 Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc. entered into a Consent Judgment with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (Case No. 15CX5). The Consent Judgment to settle allegations that Wyndham engaged in the following acts or practices in the State of Wisconsin:

 

  1. Delivering a timeshare disclosure statement that fails to include all statements required by Wisconsin Statute Sec. in a format that can be immediately read and retained by the purchaser.
  2. Representing that incentives are only available to the prospective purchaser for the remainder of the day in which the incentive was offered.
  3. Misrepresenting the resale value of a timeshare.
  4. Representing a timeshare as a financial investment.
  5. Making representations which are inconsistent with the purchase contract.
  6. Misrepresenting the reasonable estimated length of a sales presentation.
  7. Failing to clearly disclose that time shares were being offered at the initial contact with a prospective purchaser.
  8. Sending mail or coupon promotions to Wisconsin consumers that fail to comply with the prize notice requirements.
  9. Failing to inform the individual of the prize that has been awarded him or her, and then giving the individual the prize or another selected item, before beginning a sales presentation.

Wyndham consented to the Stipulation and Consent Judgment to facilitate a settlement and avoid the additional expense, delay and uncertainty of litigation. Wyndham does not admit that it has violated any laws of the state of Wisconsin.

Pattern of Complaints

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Trish Williams, a former Wyndham sales agent was awarded $20 million by a jury alleging predatory practices.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Bluegreen has this posted on their Better Business Bureau Report

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties canceling vacation packages booked through Bluegreen Corporation. Consumers claim, although Bluegreen Corporation has a cancel within 30 days policy, their requests for refunds for canceled trips are denied. Other consumers feel they are victims of deceptive sales practices. Consumers claim resorts are never available when they contact Bluegreen Corporation. While yet other consumers claim the “free” vacation Bluegreen Corporation offers is not free and involve fees they were not made aware of.

Diamond Resorts:

On December 23, 2016, the Arizona Attorney General announced that the State of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with Diamond Resorts. The Assurance of Discontinuance requires the company to pay the State of Arizona a total of $800,000, of which $650,000 is for consumer restitution and $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs. The assurance also includes a Relinquishment Remedy Program, which requires the company to allow qualifying consumers to return their timeshares with no further obligations.

Many of the hundreds of complaints received by the State of Arizona claim the company used deceptive sales practices and made numerous oral misrepresentations during their presentations. Some of the misrepresentations regard:

  • Annual increases in maintenance fees;
  • Membership resale and buy-back programs;
  • Timeshare membership resale market;
  • Ability to rent timeshare vacations; and
  • Discounts on other travel needs.

The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company employees’ actions and statements violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Vacation Village has a Better Business Bureau rating of F

BBB files contain a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding sales practices issues. Specifically, several complainants have alleged that information provided during sales presentations does not match the terms and conditions in the written contracts that they are asked to enter if they agree to make a purchase following a timeshare presentation.

On March 23, 2017 BBB sent correspondence to Village Resorts requesting their voluntary cooperation in providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.

As of May 12, 2017 BBB has not received a response from Village Resorts BBB will continue to monitor the complaints for Village Resorts and update the review as needed

So where do we go from here?

TIMESHARE TIPPING POINT proposed plan

January 21, 2018

#timesharemetoo

Time to Take Back our Vacations

Vacation

We are grateful to our Inside Timeshare readers and timeshare members who have reported their allegations of predatory and criminal timeshare sales and marketing. Due to the volume of timeshare complaints received, there is a need for Timeshare Advocacy Groups™ to restructure, as we are experiencing normal and expected growing pains.  

Three important goals proposed by Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates:

  1. Reach out to sympathetic lawmakers, Attorneys General and regulators,
  2. Change timeshare developer practices to allow those alleging they were defrauded to be made whole again, by not hiding behind the fine print, but to listen and learn. The enemy is not your customer. The enemy is your predatory sales agent.
  3. Reach out to military Facebook pages and websites to warn members of the military and law enforcement, due to the alarming number of complaints from law enforcement officers and all branches of the armed forces, alleging they were white-collar crime victims.  One Marine lost his air unit command and three are worried about losing their security clearance.

Anthony and Ashley Davis recorded their predatory sales presentation, which has been provided to law enforcement and regulatory authorities. This is our January 13, 2018 interview with Anthony and Ashley.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI    

Timeshare Advocacy Group needs sub committees or teams that work independently, coordinating with a central committee. Listed below are nine proposed teams and team leaders, based on their expertise and past willingness to serve.

Please let us know if you are willing to be become involved. Those alleging they have been victimized include doctors, lawyers, professors, law enforcement, the military, even a member who worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison, and many others.    

Proposed Teams

44 Core Advocates

Our Core Advocates are members or former members of Wyndham, Hyatt, Bluegreen, Diamond, Vacation Village  

Reporting: Irene (4 members)

Media/Social Media: Gay Hart-Brewer (22)

State Real Estate Divisions: (anonymous) (5)

Legislative Efforts: Anonymous (8)

Secret Shopper: (anonymous) (5)

Military outreach and awareness: Jeff Diehl (20)

Timeshare Exit Scams: Karen Krokosh (7)

Foreclosure Support Group: Anonymous (3)

California Team: Ken Sylvia (7)

Member supported U. S. Timeshare Advocacy Facebooks

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Advocacy team

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member of a member supported, not industry influenced, Facebook or website.

Thank you Irene and all those who helped in this article, especially the legals who ensure that they are legally accurate.

If you require any further information on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare will be pleased to help.

 

Money Vs Morals

A Fraudulent Timeshare Sale can pose a National Security Threat

One Marine sacrifices, not only his money and his security clearance, but also his air unit command, as a result of believing a timeshare sales agent.

Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, former Marine Corp pilot and investment banking and capital market underwriter, was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm.   

http://www.navy.mil/navybio_ldr.asp?id=1001

NNSA

December 27, 2017

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare received an alarming response in response to last week’s article about Samuel Melendez. Mr. Melendez spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, working with soldiers and colleges to teach them chemical, biological and nuclear defense. A Diamond Platinum member, he alleges he and his wife Delores were up-sold by deceit and bait and switch by Diamond Resorts top selling sales agent Rick Casper at DRI’s Polo Towers resort.

Inside Timeshare has been informed one Marine lost more than his money and security clearance. He lost his air unit command, as a consequence of believing a timeshare sales agent. He was forced into foreclosure which jeopardized his security clearance. We will not name the Marine who lost his air unit command, or the timeshare company, because Inside Timeshare has received reports directed against four timeshare companies offering members of our armed forces deals like the ability to rent for a profit, the ability to easily sell vacation points, or buy vacation points at a special military discount price that does not exist. Fifteen active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel allege they were sold by deceit.

Marine

Former Marine Jeff Diehl describes how his Vacation Village sales agent over promised the income that could be generated from renting his week.

Jeff Diehl

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-30/

Jeff expressed outrage after hearing a fellow Marine lost his command post due to predatory timeshare sales. He sees such tactics as a threat to our national security. “It would be easy for anyone, seeking to do our country harm, to get hired to sell vacation points in an effort to remove an armed service member from their command post,” said Jeff. Jeff is encouraging service members to write to the Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer and Commandant of the Marines Robert B. Neller, as well as other directors of our armed forces.

I fear Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer, a former top venture capitalist, may have conflicting feelings about how Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo Global Management, achieve their sales target. Apollo is the third largest private equity company. Secretary of the Navy Spencer is a former Marine Corp pilot and a former investment banking and capital market underwriter. He was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm. Mr. Spencer was sworn in August, 2017. Apollo manages Diamond as a fund of funds.  

Our fifteen Timeshare Advocacy Group™ military and law enforcement members have mobilized as a unit of armed forces to put an end to timeshare’s predatory sales and marketing targeting the military. Jeff, a retired Marine and disabled, is the unit commander. All fifteen allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. Four are worried about losing their security clearance. Four are disabled.

https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2017/11/242nd-marine-corps-birthday-message-commandant-marine-corps

Given dismal regulatory enforcement, we fear the only court open to any timeshare buyer alleging deceit is the court of public opinion, so in addition to 15 members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines, alleging they were victimized by Vacation Village, Bluegreen, Wyndham and Diamond timeshare sales agents, four members of our media outreach committee will assist our military in an effort to reach mainstream media.

Diamond Resorts is offering free passes to the military and to first responders for their upcoming invitational golf tournament to be held in Orlando January 12 – 14. Model and golf pro Blair O’Neal is featured.  

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/12/military-first-responders-to-receive-complimentary-tickets-to-third-annual-diamond-resorts-invitational/

USN

Navy computer technicians Amanda and George Jones are also worried about their Navy security clearances. Amanda and George say they were told by two Diamond sales agents, at two different locations, there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. Banks will not finance timeshares. They too could be forced into foreclosure and lose their security clearance, unable to afford the 18% timeshare loan interest rate.

Amanda and George Jones were featured in last week’s article. Mary Bowling, former #2 top selling Diamond Resorts sales agent, describes in a lawsuit, how the deceptive “price freeze” works.

Amanda and George Jones

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Here is the “price freeze” script

Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court Page 10 of complaint

#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.

#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.

#48 the sales agent has customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.

#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.

#50 (In bold) because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.

#51 (In bold) the price given is the real price planned from the outset.

#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today

#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!

#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”

George and Amanda Jones “step in”

We went to an orientation in Orlando presented by DRI sales agent Jonathan Pineda at DRI’s Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017. (This is the second complaint Inside Timeshare has received from our readers directed against Mr. Pineda) We ended up purchasing an additional 4000 points for $15,732. Our loan balance $13,271.16 is financed at 18.6794%. Jonathan (like our first Virginia DRI sale agent), said both loans could be refinanced and combined by companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. He said we would have to wait until we made our first payment (long after the contract rescission period). When we asked for a company name, Jonathan said we could google it.  

We were told we were buying our second purchase in Orlando at a price point that was almost unheard of and was not being offered to any new Diamond customers right now. “I can’t believe your first sales agent didn’t tell you about this price from the first purchase!” Jonathan said.  If we did not buy that day we would lose out and would go from $2.85 per point to $10 from that day on. He said not to go to any future promotional events because it would change our price point. Jonathan said parents had died and the children did not want the points so DRI was reselling at this low price.

Jonathan also said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points.

USArmy

Samuel Melendez, Army veteran

http://insidetimeshare.com/nightmares-timeshare-street/

Mr. Melendez is the eighth Rick Casper Platinum DRI member to reach out to Inside Timeshare, and the only complainant not to have been resolved. The Melendez complaint was dismissed. Mr. Melendez said he received an email from their DRI Consumer Advocate hospitality agent, with the family’s initials on their contract, confirming the oral representation clause.

Platinum members are Diamond’s most loyal customers. They are unsuspecting because they have dealt with the company for years without major complaints until their encounter with Rick Casper or others with questionable business practices.

We’re not sure if Rick Casper is still with DRI. Like Elvis, some members report Rick Casper and Wadji Kassas (another name frequently mentioned) are no longer with the company, while others tell us Casper and Kassas are still working at DRI. I can imagine them holed up in a special Platinum bunker.

Inside Timeshare also published the story of army veteran Terry Carter, diagnosed with blood cancer. Terry lived next to a burn pit in Iraqi. Bluegreen offered this family a loan cancellation but no refund. Terry says he will not give up without a fight. Sold in a group presentation, promised the ability to sell their timeshare at a profit should they need to sell, the family is demanding a 50% refund. Bluegreen’s defense is the family used the timeshare for 19 days since making their first purchase in 2013. They stopped making loan payments in July.

Terry Carter http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-2/

One of the worst upsell stories was reported to Inside Timeshare by Karen Vartan, another disabled vet. She was contacted by DRI marketing in San Diego. As a Platinum member for more than five years, Karen was hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Mystic Dune Sales Team in Arlington, Virginia. Karen says she was told if she purchased 25,000 additional DRI points, added to her exiting 57,000 points she would have 82,000. But if purchased today only, double points – 165,000 – allowing Karen to be able to pay her maintenance fees with points left over to travel. The program does not exist. Diamond’s response was again to provide Karen with her initials on her contract acknowledging that Karen “did not rely on any oral representation to make her purchase.”

Canada is also represented in our military victim report  

Canada

Roxanne and Terry Hurley

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Inside Timeshare directed Roxanne and Terry Hurley to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department over a year ago after the family reported they lost their entire life savings to DRI. Chalk it up to a bad decision, but having served in the Canadian army their entire career, they have nothing left. DRI did provide some help. We are not lawyers, so are not privy to the terms, but the family thought it would be alright, not violating the non-disclosure agreement, to admit they are still DRI members. Roxanne’s mom’s condition has worsened since she reached out to us. With no secondary market, their savings wiped out, their dream vacation future turned into a financial tragedy.

homeland

Law Enforcement is also at risk

Lela Renea is a Florida detective trying to work with Bluegreen to resolve her complaint.  Inside Timeshare, back in July, published Detective Renea’s article describing how she feels she was a victim of a Bluegreen bait and switch. We will not use the word “alleged” because if anyone knows they were baited and switched, it’s a detective.  

Detective Renea  http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Scotty Black, MS Criminal Justice, also works in law enforcement. Inside Timeshare will publish Scotty’s battle with Diamond Resorts in an upcoming article. Detective Renea and Scotty could also lose their security clearances if forced into foreclosure.

There are others who have moved on. We will not republish their articles or mention their names, as they have signed a mutual release agreement, agreeing not to say anything bad about Diamond Resorts.

When will this industry wake up? Never, I fear if there is not some federal enforcement. Members cannot even file a complaint effectively with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the timeshare company finances the loan because, as not the actual lender, there is no drop down CFPB menu choice to select a timeshare company. Only banks are listed.

monay v morals

According to FBI agents I spoke with, and several attorneys, hiding behind the oral representation clause is not legal but continues as a hamster wheel because there is no federal timeshare enforcement. In our opinion, state enforcement is, in some states, influenced by powerful lobby dollars. With so little enforcement, unscrupulous sales agents have little to fear. Lie to make the sale, force the member into foreclosure, take back the points, resell for full value to the next consumer.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has dismissed all Diamond Resorts complaints, submitted by members who contacted Inside Timeshare, despite Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issuing an against DRI accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The AZ AG office received, according to a source, 400 complaints, and an additional 500 complaints after the press release.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

We do not dispute there are many timeshare members, having not yet experienced a life crisis, who use and enjoy their vacation points. We know there are honest timeshare companies, like Disney Vacation Club, and honest timeshare sales agents, but it would take another lengthy article to list the lawsuits that have evolved, like the Wyndham whistleblower Trish Williams $20 million jury award describing TAFT days – tell them any blank think on slow sales days.

At least timeshare members, those who find Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below, are not silenced and isolated.

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

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

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

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