Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, this weeks article has been submitted by Sheilah Brust and her complaint to the FBI regarding her dealings with Diamond sales agents. Inside Timeshare has passed on many complaints to the US team, who are also helping people to file similar complaints.
Now for our usual look at some of the European news.
Another contract has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court in Madrid, this time against Palm Oasis / Tasolan. According to the judgement the contract was once again in breach of the timeshare law in regards to the contract being for an indefinite period, or for more than the stipulated period and the taking of deposits within the cooling off period.
The UK couple (pictured below) have been awarded over £12,000 plus the legal fees and legal interest. The case was brought by the lawyers Miguel Rodriguez Ceballos and Eva Maria Gutiérrez, both from Canarian Legal Alliance.
PDF for the Supreme Court Sentence
It has also just been announced that CLA have received Supreme Court ruling number 95, this was against the Tenerife based company Silverpoint.
The court again declared the contract null and void and has awarded £99,504 to the client, the court increased the amount by an incredible £26,652 in way of a fine against Silverpoint for taking an illegal deposit at the point of sale during the cooling off period. The client will also received back the legal fees and legal interest.
So far there is no news on the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly or Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates last year, with the magistrates referring the case to Birmingham Crown Court for sentencing. The delay may just be due to waiting for reports from the probation service which is a normal procedure, especially if a custodial sentence is possibly involved. When we find out we will let you know.
There is also still no news of the investigation of the South West Police ROCU investigation into some of the Mark Rowe companies, this is likely to be a long drawn out investigation which will be covering these companies activities over a number of year. Obviously there will be many consumers with complaints and all these will need to be interviewed. So don’t expect a speedy conclusion.
Now on with our FBI article from Sheilah edited by Irene Parker.
FBI Talking Points – “Just the Facts, Ma’am,” Joe Friday
By Sheilah Brust
March 13, 2018
For timeshare members too young to remember, “Just the Facts, Ma’am”
The show (Dragnet) was the result of an extraordinarily close collaboration between (Jack) Webb (Sgt. Joe Friday) and LAPD Chief William H. Parker, who had quickly built a reputation for eliminating corruption. (Timeline June 20, 2017)
It was hard to believe I was on hold, waiting to talk to an FBI agent about my vacation plan. I am so disappointed at having to resort to this, but what we were told was not true. We have owned this timeshare since before it was acquired by Diamond Resorts. We had traded in our deeded timeshare into non-deeded Diamond vacation points and had accumulated 50,000 points, enough to become Platinum Diamond members. We had hoped to leave something nice for our children and grandchildren. After experiencing what I believe to be fraudulent bait and switch tactics, we don’t have enough money to travel. Like so many other complaints, we were told if we purchased additional points, we would not have to pay maintenance fees. My husband and I had to get part time jobs to pay for the fees. I used to work for the New York State Governor’s office of Employee Relations, so I knew to start filing regulatory complaints, which is so time consuming it’s like having two part time jobs!
50,000 points I owned prior to the presentation
15,000 additional points in dispute
65,000 x 2 (double points) = 130,000
Our annual maintenance fee on 50,000 DRI points is $8,631. The additional 65,000 points redeemed at $.10 a point would have paid for $6,500 of the $8,631. It’s a great program. Too bad it doesn’t exit.
There is no such program allowing double points, but “Hospitality” agents at Diamond Resorts “Consumer” Advocacy department are trained to be detectives themselves, searching through the member’s contract to be able to email you back your initials on the fine print, in essence saying, it doesn’t matter what a sales agent says. All that matters is you signed a contract.
According to lawyers our advocacy group has talked to, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, encouraging sales agents to lie. I found this online:
In case after case, scandal after scandal, American federal law enforcement officials have clearly shown by their indictments and prosecutions that there is no confusion in their minds—lying is a crime. Businesspersons need to clearly understand those rules and what prosecutors define as lying.
Graziadio Business Review
The reason timeshare agents get away with it is because there is virtually no enforcement. Timeshare buyers usually buy timeshares in states other than the state they live in (usually a state that sells lots of timeshares and brings in lots of tourist dollars), so when you file a complaint, the elected officials of the state, in which you are not a resident, may not take you seriously.
The weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doesn’t even allow you to select a timeshare company from their menu when filing and the timeshare borrower usually doesn’t even know the name of the actual lender. The timeshare company services the loan, so we picked Barclays from the menu, but when you talk to Barclays they usually say, according to our Facebook members, “That’s too bad but we didn’t directly sell you the points or commit the alleged crime.”
So, here we are asking the FBI for help. This is what I learned reporting an online white-collar crime complaint through IC3.gov and orally through the FBI field office nearest to where we bought our timeshare. Any timeshare member who feels they have been victimized by “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, and bait and switch” of a serious nature, like ours, needs to file a complaint with the following law enforcement agencies in addition to filing regulatory complaints:
- The FBI at IC3.gov online using the FBI’s Complaint Referral Form,
- The FBI orally through the FBI field office nearest where you signed your contract.
- When you call, select the prompt for “Submit a Tip” then #3, White Collar Crime. Have your facts ready and contract handy. It’s a good idea to write your facts down so that you have good facts in front of you. Even the thought of calling the FBI is a little intimidating, but the agent I spoke to was a nice man who seemed very interested in what I had to say.
- The Federal Trade Commission – find the “Timeshare Sales” option. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted#crnt
- The Secret Service – FBI agent #1234 I spoke with (I don’t want to use his real number) said we should also file with the Secret Service if it involved credit card fraud. We’re looking into that. www.secretservice.gov
In our case, we were not told two Diamond Barclay credit cards were going to be opened. We were not even aware of the amount of the down payment. The down payment was $26,000! We would have for sure used a credit card that would have earned us reward points. I was infuriated when our DRI salesman Brad Leslie came back and said “Barclay loves you guys! They gave you $26,000 credit!” We thought the form we filled out was to check our credit for the down payment. We already had two Barclaycards, one issued by Diamond and other personal. Now we have four Barclaycards!! We did not dispute it because Brad said he would transfer it to our existing Diamond loan. That never happened.
Don’t be afraid to talk to the FBI. The agent I spoke with did not rush me. We spoke for over an hour. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/
Some of the things they will want to know include:
- When you purchased your timeshare?
- Where you purchased your timeshare?
- Who sold you the timeshare?
- What did you purchase?
- How much did it cost?
- Why do you feel it was fraud for profit?
Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/mortgage-fraud
I have read so many sad stories on our advocacy Facebook page. It tears me up inside to think a company that was good until about 3 years ago can do this to people. It’s gotten worse in the last few years. I guess I always want to believe in the best in people, but after this – $60,000 later, that is hard to do. We have asked Diamond to give us our money back for the last purchase that we believe meets the definition of fraud for profit. It takes a day to buy a timeshare, but weeks, days and sometimes years to get out of one.
Whatever you do, don’t pay anyone you don’t know money upfront to get you out of your timeshare. Check with our advocacy group before retaining an attorney or a “get you out of your timeshare” exit company.
With no secondary market, consumers are completely at the mercy of the timeshare company, but I hope we can turn this around and make the public and Diamond aware that some of their sales agents exhibit questionable business practices.
Diamond, make this a good company again!
There may be other timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by the same sales agent. If so, you can give the name and phone number of that member to the FBI agent so they can look up the other member’s complaint, linking your complaint to theirs. It’s a sophisticated system.
Timeshare members nationwide want to thank the FBI for their efforts. Without them, we would have no federal enforcement – only members helping members.
These are timeshare advocacy groups Inside Timeshare believes are pro-consumer, non-industry influenced, seeking to provide 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.
Thank you Sheilah for your contribution, we are sure it will give others the confidence to undertake this task themselves.
As always, if you have any questions or comments on any article published or are just wanting information on any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
Remember doing your homework and checks before engaging with any company will save you in the end.