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Greenspoon Marder

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of our Letter from America, this week we ask for your support to the protests planned for May 17th to 19th, this is another in a series of protest that disgruntled timeshare owners have staged. The protest centres on “Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices”, this is a subject of many of the complaints received and also of the many “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles we have published.

Following on from our Tuesday Slot and the lawsuit between Diamond & Aaronson here is an editorial by Timeshare Insider.

Irene Parker is not under the jurisdiction of the court over the lawsuit Diamond Resorts filed against attorney Austin Aaronson, so she is not obligated to keep terms of the settlement of Diamond Resorts v Austin Aaronson confidential, as requested by Diamond’s outside legal counsel, attorney Richard Epstein of Greenspoon Marder. However, Irene wishes to respect the wishes of Judge Dalton.

Suffice to say this is what Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey reported to the media:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/diamond-resorts-pleased-to-announce-settlement-with-timeshare-exit-attorney-in-efforts-to-protect-customers-300846745.html

This is what eye-witness Irene Parker reported:

You decide

Inside Timeshare received Diamond Platinum member complaint #82 yesterday, yet another Diamond Platinum member alleging they were up-sold into insolvency, promising maintenance fee relief programs, or programs that would allow the ability to sell points, programs that do not exist.

Hence, Diamond Platinum Member 82 Protest in Orlando next Friday, May 17 to 19. You don’t have to be Platinum to join.

Save the Date! Our next Platinum 80 Protest is in Orlando

May 17 – 19 Two Locations:

Location 1: Friday May 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Florida Timeshare Share Division DBPR Office

400 West Robinson Street, Orlando

Location 2: Saturday Sunday May 18 and 19 – 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Near Disney World

535 S Apopka Vineland Road and Palm Parkway, Orlando

You don’t need to be Platinum to Join Us!

Protesting Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

By Platinum Protest Organizers

Friday May 10, 2019

When we protested in March in Las Vegas, we protested on behalf of 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members alleging that they had been intentionally targeted for their loyalty and deliberately up-sold into insolvency. Since then we have grown to 81 Platinum members, many similar if not identical complaints. We believed in programs to pay maintenance fees that do not exist. Others say they were told if they purchased additional points, they would be able to sell points.  

By their own admission, Florida’s Attorney General’s Office and the timeshare division, Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) will take no action unless a member can produce proof. Given Florida demands proof, Florida should change from a two-party state to a one-party state, meaning make it legal to record a timeshare sales presentation without the other person aware. Otherwise, how can there ever be proof? They don’t even let you take what sales agents scribble on paper.

There are many things that cannot be determined by reading a timeshare contract.  One member reported that he was shown at a Virginia sales centre a “Special Sales Double Platinum” booking site, but if he had given up his deed he would no longer be able to book the weeks he had owned for years at the Silver loyalty level. He would not have found this out until after the rescission period, as members report not being allowed onto the booking site until after this period to cancel has passed.

His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).     

As reported at a Florida legislative workshop in Tallahassee March 12:

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.

Ms Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”  

Diamond points sell for around $4 a point. Platinum members own a minimum of 50,000 points. By 2018 maintenance fees had increased to $8,631. Out of 81 Platinum complaints, 42 members report that they were told of maintenance fees relief programs that they later learned did not exist and 16 specifically report that they were told they could pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point.

Only Platinum loyalty level members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. If a member turned in 50,000 points, redeemed at $.04 per point, it would mean they would be credited $2,000 towards a maintenance fee bill of $8,631 with no points left to travel. Members report that when they complain about being told they can turn in points to pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point, Diamond responds describing a legitimate 30/30 program that offers travel discounts. This program has nothing to do with paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point.

Platinum 81 Complaint Statistics:   

Seniors:  54 out of 81 member complaints are seniors, 65%

21 out of 81 are Veterans, Active Duty Service Members, Law Enforcement, 20%

Other Reports of Unfair and Deceptive Practices

  1. If you buy the additional points, you will be able to sell your points. Contact me when you want to sell points. When the member contacts the agent, the email or call goes to the VP who responds that there is no program to sell points.
  2. If you purchase these additional points, you will be part of the Legacy program and your heirs will not be liable for the points.    

We want consumers to Beware and Be Aware. Similar complaints have been directed against other timeshare developers and sales agents as well. Understand:

  • You may be browbeaten for hours by a tag team of three against two,
  • You can record in some states like Arizona and Nevada,
  • Most contracts are perpetual, and,
  • There is no secondary market.
  • Points may list a retail price of $9, but this does not mean points are worth $9. It has been widely reported timeshare points are worth nothing.
  • You don’t have to give up a deeded timeshare for any reason,
  • If you insist on 24 hours to review documents, you can still buy tomorrow.

Diamond members involved in the 2017 Arizona Attorney General’s investigation report that the Arizona AG’s office received over 900 complaints accusing Diamond of violating Arizona’s Consumer Protection laws. Diamond settled for $800,000 and was issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, essentially keeping Diamond under state supervision for six years.

We all actually liked Diamond Resorts and enjoyed using our points. We had built up trust over the years adding to our points. We feel 81 of a company’s highly loyal members, reporting similar to identical complaints, is proof. The fact that Diamond has dismissed us all as misunderstanding is telling. Bear in mind that we are only banding together as Platinum members. There are many similar to identical complaints reported by Silver, Gold, and lower level Valued members.

T-Shirts will be on Sale for $25 to help defray signage expenses.

Thank you Charles Thomas for being our Voice!

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/

If you are able to join them or are in the area, please go along and give them your support, for those of us unable to attend, we will be with you in Spirit. We also look forward to publishing your report on the protest.

That’s it for another week, the weekend is upon us and it is time to relax, have a great weekend and join us again next week.


The Tuesday Slot: Diamond v Aaronson Trial

Welcome to another edition of The Tuesday Slot, today Irene Parker reports on days 2 and 3 of the Diamond v Aaronson Law Firm trial, which ended 3 days earlier than expected with a settlement.

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published the article about the Modern Honolulu Hotel and the redundancy of workers, this has already prompted many comments from our readers. The one factor they all share is their disgust at the lack of compassion and sheer greed of Diamond Resorts. Well, this is a fact we are all too well aware of at Inside Timeshare, as our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories have shown.

So now for Irene’s report on the trial that has kept our readers in suspense.

Diamond Resorts v Aaronson Law Firm Trial

Lawsuit Resolved by Settlement

Anatomy of a Timeshare Trial:  A Summary

By Irene Parker

May 7, 2019

Day 1: https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-48/

The lawsuit Diamond Resorts filed against Austin Aaronson resolved by settlement Thursday, May 2nd on day three of what had been anticipated to be a six-day trial.

The crux of the lawsuit seemed to focus on a man in a grey suit that appeared in a video on Austin Aaronson’s website alleging that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees. Diamond Resorts owns 10 to 15% of outstanding points. Currently, there are over a billion points outstanding. Members own approximately 85% of the outstanding points. Mr Charles Meltz, attorney for Mr Aaronson, presented the following figures:  

Member assessments budgeted: $141 million

Actual member assessments paid: $146 million

Developer assessments budgeted: $8.6 million

Actual developer assessments paid: $4.8 million

Plaintiff’s witnesses included Steven Wolf who testified that he conducted a forensic examination of 120 Diamond members who had stopped paying loans and maintenance fees. Diamond sells timeshare points as Collections. Diamond’s US Collection, Hawaii Collection and Diamond Resorts International Points were examined, in addition to an examination of maintenance fees and Club Fees that had not been collected.

Each group was broken down into three periods of time:

  • Period A consisted of the period of time from when a Diamond member had retained Austin Aaronson, going forward to July 31, 2018
  • Period B 30 days prior to retaining Mr Aaronson, and
  • Period C, the period of time beyond 30 days, prior to retaining Mr Aaronson.

For example, concerning the US Collection:

Period C beyond 30 days: $242,365,904 in uncollected funds

Period B 30 days prior to retaining Mr Aaronson: $295,455 in uncollected funds

Period A from the time Mr Aaronson was retained: $2,365,904

Total for the four groups in uncollected funds: $4,578,838

Judge Dalton asked if this amount had been reduced to summary judgment. It had not. He ruled that this amount was speculative.

Plaintiff’s witness Steven Wolf is with Capstone Advisory Group, LLC

http://www.mondaq.com/p/873000/Steven+Wolf/Capstone+Advisory+Group%2C+LLC

Mr Wolf’s firm was paid $250,000 for the forensic analysis and $475 per hour to observe the trial from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 30 and May 1 through his testimony that continued through Thursday morning May 2.

Three former Diamond members testified as witnesses for the Plaintiff.

Witness 1 testified that buying additional points did not improve availability. He had purchased a total of 26,500 points. Diamond had sued witness 1 for $170,000, which included arbitration fees. The judgement against witness 1 was wiped clean in exchange for his testimony. Witness 1 confirmed that he was aware of Mr Aaronson’s website that stated the firm had leverage over Diamond resorts due to misappropriated maintenance fees and a breach of fiduciary duty.

Witness 2 testified on behalf of his mother about his contacting Aaronson Law Firm and that he was told Aaronson Law Firm had leverage over Diamond because Diamond was not handling maintenance fees correctly.

Witness 3 was role played, reading a prior deposition. The wife had testified at an earlier deposition. Her husband was retired Army, 100% disabled, exposed to Agent Orange. He suffers from PTSD. She testified that they went to a Branson sales centre and purchased 3,000 points for $16,030.  They wanted to learn how to use the system but were told to come back within 90 days for an orientation. They attended an orientation in November 2015. At the orientation, they were told by Branson sales agent Kimberly that they had not purchased enough points. They ended up buying 27,000 additional points for $72,850 which they could not afford.

This brings to five, the number of Agent Orange disabled veterans harmed by their decision to purchase Diamond points:

  1. 70% Disabled Agent Orange exposed Army Veteran George Yamada who reported he purchased Diamond points as an investment. George is a pension administrator. https://www.opednews.com/articles/Let-s-Honor-our-Veterans–by-Irene-Parker-Fraud-180908-59.html
  2. A 100% disabled veteran, up-sold by a Diamond sales agent Inside Timeshare has received 21 complaints against. This veteran was issued a $170,000 1099 C after his loan was terminated. We pointed him in the right direction so his CPA could resolve the 1099.
  3. Leo Gomez was told he must switch from Premier Vacation Club to US Collection because his resort went bankrupt. Leo only had 30 days left to live when he contacted me, suffering from pancreatic cancer. He did not call to complain. He wanted to know what he could do about the loan. It was not true Leo needed to switch from PVC to US Collection. I own the same points. Leo was 100% Agent Orange disabled. His last words to me were, “I want my story told.” Leo earned two Purple Hearts. https://www.opednews.com/articles/A-Fourth-Agent-Orange-Vete-by-Irene-Parker-Fraud-180917-513.html
  4. A 100% disabled Agent Orange veteran earned a Purple Heart because he had been shot in Vietnam. His dispute has been resolved.

These veterans put their life on the line to protect me. I will do all I can to do my part to reform timeshare because of the 806 families who have contacted Inside Timeshare, 103 veterans and active duty service members. Five Agent Orange veterans so stressed because they purchased too many timeshare points are five Agent Orange disabled veterans too many.

Attorney Charles Meltz asked about the likelihood of someone age 88 meeting the obligations of a ten-year loan.

Diamond’s attorney Richard Epstein of Greenspoon Marder responded,

“Are old people allowed to take vacations?”

This comment follows recent publications describing how the Lusk family, nearly 90, were sold $150,000 worth of timeshare points, as reported by USA Today and Diane Burkhardt’s father sold $250,000 worth of Diamond points between the ages of 86 to 88, after Diamond refused to take back the timeshare that her father had purchased and paid for free and clear at age 85, reported by Consumer Affairs.

Inside Timeshare has heard from way too many seniors who purchased a timeshare from several developers. These seniors are stressed beyond words. Most have maintained a high credit score their entire life, now bracing for timeshare foreclosure. They signed off on high-interest rate loans and sometimes higher interest rate credit cards.

Seniors don’t need this.    

Lawsuit details:

Diamond Resorts International Inc, Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, Hawaii Collection Development LLC, and Diamond Resorts Management Inc, filed a lawsuit against Austin N. Aaronson and Aaronson, Austin, PA.

Case No. 6:17-1394-ORL-37-DCI

Attorneys Richard W. Epstein, Jeffrey A. Backman, and Olga M Vieira of Greenspoon Marder LLP are plaintiffs’ attorneys. Mr Aaronson is represented by Charles J. Meltz of Grower Ketcham, Eide, Telan & Meltz, P.A.

As reported by ABA Journal January 30, 2018:

Diamond Resorts had claimed Aaronson and his law firm solicited timeshare members in an advertising campaign that weaves a false narrative, causing timeshare members to stop contract payments and subjecting Diamond Resorts to baseless arbitration proceedings.

Aaronson had claimed his firm’s advertising was not false or misleading because it constituted opinion or puffery.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_refuse_to_toss_suits_claiming_law_firms_interfered_with_timeshare_co

Mr Meltz, attorney for Aaronson, reported how Diamond maintenance fees had more than doubled from 2007 to 2015 from $.07 per point to $.145 per point and that there is no secondary market for Diamond points.

After Thursday’s lunch break, Judge Dalton would not allow Diamond’s next witness to testify. After a consultation, attorney Richard Epstein announced that they had reached a settlement. He then asked Judge Dalton to instruct me not to report details of the settlement. Judge Dalton kindly said to me that I could report that the lawsuit was resolved by settlement.

Two additional Plaintiff witnesses had testified. The first was Kathleen Wheeler, who serves on several Diamond Resort Boards. She is one of four asset managers. The second was Lisa Levere, VP of Operations and Financial Services. Both testified as to the audited care and attention taken to ensure maintenance fees are not misappropriated. Due to the settlement reached, the defence did not have an opportunity to call any of their witnesses to support their allegations that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees. I was looking forward to hearing how witnesses called by the defence were to support their claims.

I was employed by CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in foster care. For three years I wrote court reports and edited our volunteers’ CASA reports. I attended all hearings and trials. I miss Family Court, so I have to admit I am a courthouse buff. Following are the trials remaining for the rest of 2019:

Westgate v. Mitchell Sussman, Esq. – 6:17-cv-1467 (MD FL)

July 1, 2019 trial before Judge Dalton (cross-MSJ’s pending)

OL v. RHA 17-cv-1542-Orl-31DCI (MD FL)

August 5, 2019 trial before Judge Presnell (cross-MSJ’s pending)

Wyn v. Totten Franqui Law Firm 9:18-cv-81055 (SD FL)

September 10, 2019 trial before Judge Middlebrooks

I will be there

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Irene, Inside Timeshare and our readers really appreciate you giving up your valuable time to attend the hearing and covering this story. One thing is certain, Inside Timeshare will continue to report on Diamond Resorts and any other timeshare company, we do this in the interest of our readers and all consumers. We make no apology about it and do not really care if it upsets the industry!

If you have any comments on this or any article published, please use our contact page, we welcome and value them.

Have you had a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” if so, we would love to hear from you. If you would like your story to be shared with our readers lets us know and we will be happy to publish.