(June 26, 2014) — So far nearly 60 people have been prosecuted in Southern Illinois alone in connection with telemarketing organizations that defrauded thousands of timeshare owners across the continent out of millions of dollars, all on phony claims of having buyers for their timeshares. Most of the operations were run out of boiler rooms located in Palm Beach County, FL.
The most recent prosecution involves Kristina R. Cameron, 35, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, who surrendered herself to the United States Marshals Service in East St. Louis, Illinois, on June 23 in response to an arrest warrant issued on June 17, 2014. The warrant was the result of a federal grand jury returning an Indictment charging Cameron with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. The charge carries a term of imprisonment of up to 25 years, a fine of $250,000 and five years of supervised release.
The Indictment alleges that Cameron was one of the owners of C&G Marketing Associates, LLC, a Florida corporation which, in 2009, defrauded consumers using the fictitious name Premier Timeshare Solutions (“PTS”). PTS telemarketers worked in an office building in West Palm Beach, Florida. From there, they placed phone calls to timeshare owners, falsely representing or implying that the company had found someone who wanted to buy the person’s timeshare. In exchange for an advance fee that typically exceeded $1,000, the PTS telemarketers promised to handle all the details of the sale and send the victims the proceeds after closing. Once the victims had paid the advance fee, however (usually by giving the telemarketer their credit card information), the fraudulent company simply pocketed the money. There were no interested buyers, the closings did not occur, and the timeshares were not resold.
According to the indictment, after PTS was shut down in late 2009 Cameron continued to defraud consumers by opening and operating another timeshare re-sale fraud scheme known as Commercial Property Partners, LLC (“CPP”). Then, according to the Indictment, after CCP shut down in 2010, Cameron operated another fraudulent telemarketing business known as Federal Fee Recovery, LLC (“Federal Fee”). Federal Fee telemarketers called victims of timeshare re-sale scams, including PTS and CPP, and, in return for an upfront fee, falsely promised that they could help the victims recover what they had lost due to the timeshare resale scams.
Several others have been charged in connection with PTS and two defendants have pled guilty. Last month, the grand jury returned ten one-count indictments in connection with this scheme. On June 17, 2014, in addition to indicting Cameron, the federal grand jury returned indictments against three additional PTS employees.
PTS co-owner Jose Goyos was indicted in September 2013 and sentenced to 96 months of imprisonment on May 2, 2014. His part of the scam involved perpetuating the fraud by delaying and discouraging chargebacks and complaints. To accomplish that goal, representatives would lie to victims, assuring them that despite some phony, unexpected delay, their timeshare unit was still going to be sold. Repeat callers were given a series of bogus excuses, none of which had any basis in fact. By instilling a false sense of hope, PTS aimed to delay the chargeback process beyond the time that most credit card issuers allow for disputes.
The case is part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Department of Agriculture. The prosecution of the cases is being handled by Special Assistant United States Attorney Michael Hallock and Assistant United States Attorney Scott Verseman.