Two men from Florida have pleaded guilty in a telemarketing scam that cost 40 victims more than $1.5 Million. Following an investigation by the FBI, Troy Carter and David Bell have both plead guilty to a huge money laundering conspiracy, that saw victims being targeted twice. Both men face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
From 2015 to 2018, Carter and Bell concocted a ruthless scam to target timeshare owners throughout the U.S. and steal their money. They instructed staff to cold-call timeshare owners and pose as real estate agents claiming to have buyers ready to purchase their timeshare’s.
The fraudsters told victims that the sales would be completed if they made one or more advanced payments for fees associated with the completion of the sale. These fees included, closing costs, courier services, title searches, transfer fees and legal fees. Once the victims agreed to pay the bogus advance fees, the fraudsters directed the victims to wire transfer the funds to Troy Crater and David Bell. The two then withdrew the funds and shared them among the staff based on each person’s role in the fraudulent transaction.
Not content with the money they had already conned from victims, they continued to extract money from timeshare owners, falsely claiming they required further fees in order to complete the sale.
Incredibly, the scam evolved into a second stage, where they re-contacted victims via email, this time posing as helpful solicitors working to recoup money they lost from the previous scam. They offered to represent the victims, once they had gained to trust of their victims, they were directed to pay further fees for bogus costs. Some victims paid the timeshare scammers several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the ‘litigation’ which Carter and Bell retrieved or had others retrieve at their direction.
Cater and Bell were initially recruited into the scheme by others, including several defendants who have pleaded guilty to related charges. Mark Boring previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. His sentencing hearing is set for March 7. Martin Steele has pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. His sentencing hearing has not been set. Gary Kinard has been sentenced to seven years and eleven months in federal prison for wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft for his role in the scheme.
In accordance with their plea agreements, Cater has agreed to pay $145,961.35 and Bell has agreed to pay $268,356, in restitution to the scheme’s numerous victims. In addition, Cater and Bell have consented to forfeiture money judgments in the amounts of $15,000 and $26,000, respectively, which represent the proceeds of the fraud.
How does a timeshare scam work?
A company may contact you out of the blue, but you have to be especially cautious when you receive unsolicited phone calls from timeshare exit companies. Under new EU regulations, it is now illegal to cold-call people unless they have specifically agreed to being contacted. Any legitimate company would not willingly break the law in this way and risk the financial penalties in doing so. How did they obtain your information without you giving to them? It was probably sold to them in an illegal manner, they will know all about your previous investments and your personal details, this gives them credibility when trying to sell their fraudulent services.
They make claims that sound too good to be true, unfortunately, they are. Anyone who claims to be able to re-sell your timeshare within a specified time period, or who has buyer lined up, is probably lying. The timeshare re-sale market is completely saturated and even if you do manage to make a sale, it will be nowhere near the price you originally paid for it.
They request upfront fees, they will ask for fees to be paid via a credit card, bank transfer or cheque. These fees are requested to cover registration fees, taxes or closing costs. Fraudsters may initially ask for a small fee but rely on the victims seeing this as a nominal amount worth paying if it facilitates the sale of the timeshare. Once paid, various excuses are made by the fraudsters to explain why the timeshare has not been sold yet. Subsequently, further larger amounts are then requested by the fraudsters. Needless to say, no sales ever materialise and no money is ever refunded.
Protect yourself from timeshare fraud.
Always check that the details of the organisation or company contacting you, such as the website, address and phone number, are correct as the fraudsters may be posing as a legitimate organisation.
Challenge all calls, letters or emails from people or organisations you don’t know or you have never contacted before. Ask how they have obtained your details and make a note of the call.
If you have been a victim to fraud in the past, seek independent advise before engaging with any organisation that is offering to help you. Callous fraudsters will often attempt to defraud people who have already fallen victim to fraud by offering to return what the victim has already lost.
People who enter into timeshare agreements often find it difficult to keep up with the mounting maintenance fees and cannot afford it any longer. They may also find that the Timeshare no longer suits their needs and simply want to end the contract.
There are too many individuals who are willing to take advantage of timeshare owners and offer fake products, along with timeshare exit schemes. Before agreeing to any timeshare termination or exit procedure with an individual or company, seek independent advice and fully research any company you are thinking of working with.
It is also important to remember that purchasing a timeshare should NEVER be viewed as a financial investment. Timeshare is an investment in lifestyle, in future holidays and family time together. There is almost no resale value to a Timeshare.
The mis-selling of holiday products is, unfortunately, common practice within the holiday industry. These type of crimes often go unreported by the most vulnerable in our society and criminal convictions are few and far between.
If you have purchased a Lifestyle / Concierge Service, a Timeshare or a ‘Holiday Points’ based product from a resort or company and feel unhappy with the service, or simply want to end your agreement, get in touch with us today to see how we can help with a possible timeshare termination.