Timeshare Telemarketing Scam Bilked $25M From Consumers

Three Florida men pleaded guilty recently to assisting in an elaborate telemarketing operation that defrauded $25 million from timeshare owners in the U.S. and Canada. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas announced that the three men reached a deal with prosecutors to settle charges that they committed mail fraud, wire fraud, and telemarketing fraud in their roles in the scheme.

According to the DOJ, from 2009 until October 2010, the operation made unsolicited phone calls to owners of resort timeshare properties in the U.S. and Canada to persuade them into paying fees associated with the bogus sale of their property.

The indictment claims that the defendants, who claimed to be from companies that were global leaders in connecting timeshare buyers, sellers, and renters, misrepresented the existence of a buyer for the timeshare and solicited money from owners to facilitate the sale.

As part of the scheme, the defendants solicited timeshare owners to enter into agreements to sell their timeshares and pay for alleged closing costs with their credit cards, personal checks, bank checks, or through electronic check conversion.

To give the operation a legitimate presence, the defendants allegedly instituted a bogus telephone verification process to make “follow-up phone calls to the targeted timeshare owners to give them the false impression they were dealing with entities that would protect their money and property, and to trick them into making recorded statements that no sale had been promised by the telemarketers,” the DOJ states.

After obtaining payment from timeshare owners, the indictment claims, the operators of the scheme kept the money for their own use. They then made further false statements to victims, including advising the owners they were protected by telemarketing laws and could cancel their contract or request a refund at anytime.

The three defendants, Max Chilson, Victor Sanchez, and Gunner Dell, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and telemarketing fraud.

The DOJ estimates that Chilson collected $7.06 million in the scheme, while Sanchez collected $12.7 million and Jenkins $5 million.

Five other defendants, who were arrested in March, face trial in August.

[via The Dallas Morning News]

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