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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.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, we publish another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” article this week which focuses on Westgate, we welcome our new contributor who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. But first a quick look at the timeshare news from Europe.

Another Judge at the Courts of First Instance Number 2 in Maspalomas has joined other Judges in deciding on a case at the pre-trial stage rather than sending it for a full trial, that now makes Courts numbers 1, 2, 3 and four all following the same route.

Usually the pre-trial stage is used to allow a last minute out of court settlement and deciding if the case warrants a full trial. These courts have now decided that it is a waste of valuable court time to set dates and hold the full trial, the reasoning is that it is a matter of the contracts, they violate the timeshare laws and are cut and dried cases. This will be good news for many clients who are waiting to go to court as it will now speed up the process considerably.

We have heard from another reader who informed us of a company called Litigation Services SL with the company registration number B93268936, they give the address C/ CORONEL RIPOLLET, EDF SANTOS REIN S/N FUENGIROLA (this is a rather seedy street).

The director is listed as CALLE GUDEN DANIEL ERNESTO Appointment: 15/10/2014, but another very old familiar name is also listed although he was dismissed on the above date, SHARIFI DADVAR MAHMOUD REZA.

According to the caller, the courts have seized sizable amounts of money from Timelinx and DWVC (Designer Way Vacation Club) which we know are no longer in existence, Litigation Services SL will help you to claim the money you paid. Obviously they need a fee to process this. The thing is there are no funds waiting at court to be claimed, we also know that in the past this company has had links with the likes of Greenges, Fuengirola Servicios 2000 and our old friends Ramirez and Ramirez.

It would also seem that not only those who had dealings with DWVC are being targeted, but Club Class Concierge clients are being contacted. The story is that there is a court case against them in the Spanish Courts, The company is called Key Legal Claims and they will represent you in court and obtain the money you paid Club Class.

The caller is Emily Carter with the phone number 01212852941. Emily will require a release fee to get the money from the courts, as we have seen in the past this is not the case, there is no money being held by the courts for either of these “Clubs”.

Now on with our Letter from America

My Westgate Timeshare is Up in Smoke!

By a Westgate buyer

October 5, 2018

The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles revisited,

Comments from Irene

The Siegel’s “Queen of Versailles” Florida home

Their lavish pad is nine times larger than other houses in the area (90,000 square feet) and has a $20 million mortgage, which is 100 times the size of the average mortgage in Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2310067/Construction-FINALLY-restarts-vast-Queen-Versailles-mansion-recession-hit-owners-raise-30m-needed-complete-it.html     

By a Westgate owner who wishes to remain anonymous. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to contact the author.  

Wealth Achieved at What Price?

Up in Smoke

I own a Westgate timeshare. I purchased the timeshare in Gatlinburg, Tennessee a while ago. In November 2016 the resort caught fire and my unit was burned to the ground. They are rebuilding, but the new units are totally different from the units being replaced.  I am being asked to pay for a unit that has not been built, and given less options for the same money. I don’t see how this can be fair, but given the way in which we have been treated, I don’t think ‘fair’ is anything Westgate cares about.

The manner in which I was induced to sign the original contract attests to this:

The timeshare would be a great investment because it is real estate,

  • I could sell it,
  • I could rent it to make my money back,
  • I could get a tax break, the same as a homeowner,
  • I could get a loan to pay off my loan because it was an investment.

Westgate sales agent Zak told us it was best to buy low because in years to come the value of the property would increase.  He provided an example of one of the original owners that purchased paying only $3000, and then showed me what the property is worth today. I now know timeshares are a liability, almost impossible to sell for even pennies on the dollar. The salesman misrepresented pretty much everything to make the sale.

Timeshares are not the same as real estate, and with little to no secondary market, not an investment. Many timeshares, including Westgate, can be bought online for $1. The market is flooded with timeshares and it is almost impossible to rent them out. Tax deductions are not allowed.

I relied on what the sales agent said. Now I am left with payments for something that is not what was described. Based on my experience, the poorly regulated timeshare product benefits only the sales agent, in the form of commissions, and the timeshare company, who apparently has amassed a fortune at our expense.  

Our timeshare sale began with deception. A mandatory update, which is not mandatory, stated it would last 30 minutes, but it was a sales presentation that lasted 4 hours. They didn’t care about my sightseeing tour plans ruined. There has never been a time when staying at a Westgate vacation resort that I have not been pressured by employees trying to sell or upgrade me to a pricier unit. Despite making loan payments every month plus maintenance fees, before you can even use the week, you have to undergo the pressure imposed by a Westgate employee, taking up one of your vacation days, trying to sell you something that you don’t want or need.

When I think about my Westgate experience these last five years, listening to sales agents making promises unfulfilled, having spent thousands of dollars, what I have is worth nothing. This has been a nightmare.

I have tried to contact Westgate to talk about my concerns. They strung me along for months and months saying they’d get back to me. Eventually, their paralegal wrote a generic cut and paste letter stating that I had signed a contract so that was that. This is the level of care Westgate shows its owners?

Their home is 90,000 Square feet?

Thank you to this Westgate owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, but has provided their contact information should others wish to contact them through Inside Timeshare. These are member accounts hoping to warn others to know that what they bought is probably worth nothing. The timeshare developer is always welcome to present their side of the argument.  

My question to timeshare developers is, how much is enough? Inside Timeshare has heard from 609 timeshare members and owners, many families financially devastated, alleging unfair and deceptive sales practices. Most signed off on high interest loans.

We thank timeshare members for submitting their experiences in the hope of warning those thinking about buying a timeshare, to be aware the purchase they are about to make can have devastating financial consequences.

What house, condo, boat or car would you buy that could not be resold? What would happen to the residential home market if buyers learned after their purchase, the “asset” they bought had no secondary market? It is not uncommon for Inside Timeshare to hear from timeshare buyers who paid $100,000 or more for a timeshare, easily the cost of a condo or home. Timeshares are hard enough to sell, but almost impossible with a loan attached. You can sell a house or a car with a loan, but not a timeshare.

You can rent the documentary “The Queen of Versailles” from Netflix, about the 90,000 square foot home being built in Orlando by Westgate owners David and Jackie Siegel. The documentary took Best Director at Sundance some years ago.

https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/the-queen-of-versailles#

As a former stockbroker, I have no objection to great wealth, but given the Dashiell’s articles submitted last week and today’s article by a Westgate owner, I ask, “Wealth at what price?”

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-7/

I have heard from Carolyn Willis, a third Westgate buyer, whose timeshare went “Up in Smoke” also, angry beyond words.

 The Siegel’s 90,000 square foot house led to my timeshare advocacy efforts. I attended a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation July 2015. When I returned to our unit, I turned on the television and happened to tune into Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi’s FOX show Property Man, featuring the Siegel house.  Disgusted with what I had just experienced, I wrote to Mr. Massi. About a month later the FOX producer called me and said they had received a flood of timeshare complaints. The producer said the segment was not even about timeshare, but about the Siegel’s palatial home. She said Mr. Massi is a friend of the Siegels. I was the only respondent invited to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. She said I was selected because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives of timeshare and not just the negatives.

 My house in Venice 1,770 square feet

Sometimes it takes a peasant revolt.

I described my timeshare presentation experience in fairytale format. My husband and I were in between homes, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. The comparison was irresistible, so I christened myself the peasant of Venice, as my LinkedIn profile describes.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare experience to share. We know there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. They may not be aware that timeshares often have virtually no secondary market. Many reaching out to us only learned this when life circumstances prompted them to look into selling their timeshare.  Timeshare companies list the lack of a secondary market as a risk to shareholders in their annual reports. There is little empathy for the timeshare buyer who has spent thousands of dollars only to learn their timeshare is, by design, worth nothing. Greenhaven Capital Management touted the lack of a secondary market as a benefit for private equity investors. In a moment of anger, I wrote this mock interview after reading about Greenhaven, touting the timeshare stock BECAUSE of no secondary market. I find this shameful.  

My apologies to British comedians Bird and Fortune

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-across-atlantic/

Do not pay anyone money upfront to get out of a timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups. You will find straight answers at no cost on these sites.

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/

That’s it for this week, remember if you have been contacted by any company with a story that your timeshare company or club has been taken to court and there is money waiting for you, it will be a scam. If you need any help in checking the validity of any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet or advert, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, in this article by Irene Parker with a contribution from Mike Finn of Finn Law Group, we look at the Timeshare Tax Trap.

The Orlando Sentinel has also published an article about Diamond and Orange Lake Resorts sueing Mike Finn, they accuse him of using  “false and misleading” claims in his ads. The article also mentions that Mike is cited by many publications as a successful cancellation attorney who along with other groups monitor timeshare companies, they go on to name the National Timeshare Owners Association and also Inside Timeshare. Mike is a regular contributor and offers valuable insights into the law for Inside Timeshare For the full article click on the link below.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-orange-lake-timeshare-finn-20180404-story.html

But first a new warning from Europe, one of our long standing regulars has been contacted by a new “law Firm”, yes you guessed it, another new name in the Litigious Abogados family from Tenerife.

legalidades-abogados-logo

The new name is Legalidades Abogados, using the same address we have seen before:

4, Calle de S. Francisco, Santa Cruz, 38002, Tenerife

Freephone: 0800 862 0995

Tenerife Tel: 0034 822 250 502

email: [email protected]

email: [email protected]

Once again the address is genuine and shows 2 lawyers plaques on the wall, neither are this one. The email addresses are also not linked to the website, but are ones you can register for free at consultant.com.

According to their website http://legalidades-abogados.com/ they were founded by  Alberto Kalimro Galvera, on Monday 19th July 1990. Again this date in 1990 was actually a Thursday, so once again not very much attention to detail there. They also still insist they have over 15 years presence on the internet, not bad since the website was only registered on 15 March 2018 with the registrant hidden by a privacy company.

After the initial call they send an email which is signed by Angelica Imolintos Lesterno from Departmento Legal. Also attached is a letter of 3 pages with many official looking logos, it is signed by another new name Pablo Ibernas Cavosa.

Here are the new lawyers names and photos, once again probably downloaded from the internet, without the knowledge of the actual persons.

alberto-kalimro-galvera  luciano-emanca-domeras  pedro-arenolde-verandel  gabriel-lindeno-miraldo-203x300  pablo-Ibernas-cavosa-legalidades-abogados-300x201

From left to right: Alberto Kalimro GalverLuciano Emanca DomerasPedro Arenolde VerandelPablo Ibernas Cavosa.

 

In this long winded letter, they go on to say that it is a “no win no fee” arrangement, but as we know from past experience the next stage will be a fee is required for the Procurador. After this there will be a fee to pay “tax” to release the money from the court.

Once again we remind you to be very wary on companies that make these wonderful claims, especially with a “no win no fee” arrangement. Do your homework, you know it makes sense.

Now for this week’s Letter from America.

The Timeshare Tax Trap – A 1099 Loan Forgiveness Tax Liability

$170,000 Diamond Timeshare Points Purchased for no Reason

Timeshare Attorney Mike Finn, a former C.P.A., weighs in

Tax Time

By Irene Parker

April 6, 2018

Two Inside Timeshare readers contacted us alarmed, because they received an IRS 1099 form, informing them of a timeshare tax liability. For one family, this meant possibly an additional $170,000 in income. This would have been bad enough, but the already Platinum Diamond Resort member said they purchased the points to participate in a program that did not exist.

Timeshare members have learned there is little to no timeshare enforcement of timeshare regulations in some states, so by relying on the oral representation clause, timeshare sales agents are allowed to say anything to sell vacation points. The Nevada Real Estate Division has routinely replied to timeshare buyers, “You have no proof,” according to member reports. Today’s family is one of eleven families complaining about the same sales Las Vegas sales agent.

A reminder no one should pay upfront money without checking with us or one of the advocacy self-help Facebooks and websites listed below. Lack of a secondary market for timeshare points gives rise to a flourishing community of scam artists.

This former Diamond member says DRI sales agent Rick Casper, working out of Polo Towers in Las Vegas, told him to buy more Diamond vacation points to eliminate maintenance fees. He and his wife wanted to talk to someone at DRI because they were struggling to pay maintenance fees on the 50,000 DRI points they already owned. This member is a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran, having been exposed to Agent Orange. The former member did not contact us to complain about Diamond Resorts. He wanted to know if there was anything that could be done about the 1099. I did ask why he purchased additional timeshare points from Rick Casper, given Inside Timeshare has received 11 identical complaints about the same Las Vegas sales agent over an 18 month period.    

In 2016 we went to Las Vegas and stayed at Diamond’s Cancun resort and met with Rick Casper. Mr. Casper said if we upgraded, we would be able to cover maintenance fees. However, maintenance fees increased after the upgrade to $16,000 a year. After five hours, my blood sugar was at 400. I was recovering from congestive heart failure. Rick Casper said it would cost us $198,000, $2500 a month in payments for the next 10 years but after ten years we would have no maintenance fees and no loan payment. Rick Casper said, “Then the little people will be paying for your vacation.” He said it would take a year to a year and a half to set up but he would personally handle it. He said since we were only paying $3, he had a guy that could sell points for much more than that and the proceeds would pay for the maintenance fees. I ended up paying a company in Branson MO $1500 to get out of this; but now the IRS has issued us a 1099 which has to be claimed as income. It’s for around $170,000. I’m now 71 years old. I would have been better off foreclosing.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 114 Diamond Resorts members since January 1. By publishing these accounts we hope to inform new timeshare buyers, and existing members upgrading, that the timeshare contract is perpetual, maintenance fees increase, and in most cases there is little or no secondary market.

Buyer Beware Active Duty military and law enforcements are especially affected by a bad timeshare purchase. We are assisting seven in fear of losing their Security Clearance. The ages and branch of military service of the 11 Rick Casper customers, who report being financially devastated as a result of their Polo Tower purchase, include:

  1. Age 69, Army, retired, 21 years
  2. Age 70, 100% disabled, Army, Agent Orange
  3. Age 68, Coast Guard veteran
  4. A stage 4 cancer patient, age 40s
  5. Age 60
  6. Age 69, Gulf War veteran, on 25 meds
  7. Age 61
  8. Age 66
  9. Age 56
  10. Mary Pfeifer, age 72, new complaint not unresolved
  11. Denise Hodgkins, age 56, new complaint, unresolved

I asked my CPA about the 1099. She said they would have referred the tax filer to a tax attorney, so the problem is not that simple. As usual, we went to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. Mike provided an article about this important topic on his Learning Center.

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/tax-time-contract-cancellation-timeshare-developer

An excerpt from Mike’s article:

Loan forgiveness

The 1099 form is referencing a large amount which may very well be taxable income! Unlike a mortgage balance forgiven, which would have been spread out over the life of the loan, this possibly taxable sum has been reported to the IRS in one lump sum! Say the amount reported is about $25,000. Say further that your tax bracket is 20%. Your new added tax bill is $5,000, and it’s due April 15th!

So, does this tax form receipt mean that the recipient is stuck with the tax bill for the so-called income? Well, possibly.

Consult with a tax professional before you assume that your receipt of a 1099 form from a timeshare developer automatically means you’re staring down significant tax liability. Understand we are not providing tax advice, merely a possible position that we believe is quite tenable and worth exploring with your own tax advisor. Although it’s accurate for me to state that I was a Certified Public Accountant, it is much more important to note that my C.P.A. licensure has long ago lapsed (because I didn’t choose to keep up with the annual professional education courses necessary to retain my certification). Please take your tax preparation advice solely from your own qualified tax return preparer.

Every tax filer is unique, with differing facts and circumstances. I am not offering, nor should you interpret my comments, as tax advice.

Historically, over the past half dozen years or so, hundreds and hundreds of Finn Law Group clients have received IRS 1099 forms, both 1099A’s and 1099C’s.  The receipt of these forms creates confusion.

I point you to IRS form #982. This is the form that the IRS advises should be filed along with the income tax return itself as a form of supporting schedule, which provides notification to the IRS that the amount presented to them via a 1099 is being acknowledged, but further, that the amount listed should be excluded from the taxpayer’s gross income. The myriad of possible reasons provided on the 982 Form are in and of themselves confusing and difficult to understand. I’m therefore providing my readers what I suggest may be appropriate reasoning in concluding that, in many cases, there should be no “income tax penalty” imposed after successfully negotiating a release of contract with your timeshare resort.

Allow me to provide my argument as to why some forms of debt forgiveness may well be construed as taxable income, and then differentiate the negotiated act of cancelling a timeshare contract and why this transaction therefore logically should be treated differently.

Since “income” generally means a measure of accretion of wealth or value added to your worth, then the cancellation of a debt, when that debt was incurred when you received something of value, should be counted as income because the elimination of the debt liability plus the retention of the item acquired when the debt was incurred increases your net worth. Under this definition of added wealth, the taxing of same would be quite logical.

Applying this argument to the cancellation of a timeshare contractual obligation and its related underlying indebtedness, it’s immediately evident that the cancelled owner has retained absolutely nothing of value. They’ve surrendered their interest in exchange for a debt and/or contract cancellation, but after the transaction they have absolutely no accretion of net worth.

Indeed, they’ve lost anything previously paid on an ‘asset’ they no longer own, so any argument that they’ve achieved and retained income or anything of value because of the contract cancellation is simply not accurate.

In terms of taxpayer reporting requirements, the issue becomes murkier when you apply it to timeshare transactions. Whether or not the industry will ever acknowledge that the resale value of a timeshare interest is minimal at best, what we can establish is that it would be extremely unusual for anyone other than the resort developer to acquire the timeshare interest at foreclosure, and therefore the liquidated basis of the interest will nearly always be zero, or at best a nominal value at foreclosure. Also making the timeshare transaction more complex in terms of following the instructions of either IRS form 982 and/or publication 4681 relating to this issue is determining whether the underlying debt should be viewed as “recourse” or “non-recourse,” given the propensity of the developers to utilize non-recourse based non-judicial foreclosures to recover the interest the greatest majority of the time.

I’ve attempted to avoid becoming overly technical in terms of specifically advising of taxpayer reporting other than to suggest very generally that the filing of the IRS form 982 will most probably be required. Lastly, I do strongly recommend utilizing a professional tax return preparer, as these forms are not at all intuitive.

I earnestly wish that I could offer something less complex to help provide absolute answers to this prominent issue, but I do feel that this is important because the financial ramifications are potentially high.

Respectfully provided,

Michael D. Finn, Esq.

Michael-D-Finn2

Thank you, Mike, for the timeshare accounting lesson. One question I had is,

What is the difference between a 1099 A and a 1099 C?

http://www.koontzassociates.com/pages/know-the-difference-between-a-1099-a-and-1099-c/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you have a timeshare nightmare. We know there are many that use and enjoy their timeshare, some having not faced a need to sell it, or were lucky to purchase from a sales agent that sold the product as the product is intended.

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/

Deceptive

Elder Abuse:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/elder-fraud-charges-announced

All of the schemes have one goal: to trick and deceive senior citizens into turning over their hard-earned savings. Last year, the FBI opened more than 200 financial crime cases that involved elderly victims, Bowdich said. The investigations covered a range of crimes, from investment frauds to reverse mortgage scams.

Thank you Irene for this weeks article and also a very big thank you to Mike Finn for his contribution.

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments on this or any article published, also if you need any information about your ownership or any company that has contacted you or you are thinking of doing business with, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Friday is upon us the weekend beckons, we hope you have a great and relaxing one. See you next week.

weekend 1