DALLAS, TX (February 11, 2016) — Three defendants charged with offenses stemming from their operation of a telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted persons over age 55, have pleaded guilty to their respective roles in the scheme, announced John Parker, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
On February 9, one of the lead defendants, Max Chilson, 37, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and telemarketing fraud. The maximum statutory penalty for that offense is 30 years in federal prison, since the conduct affected a financial institution, a $1 million fine and restitution. While not binding on the Court, the government recommends a sentence not to exceed 120 months in custody.
Last week, co-defendants Gunner Dell Jenkins, 36, and Victor Sanchez, 46, pleaded guilty to the same offense. According to their plea agreements, the government recommended a custody sentence not to exceed 60 months for Jenkins and 78 months for Sanchez. Those recommendations also are not binding upon the Court.
Chilson is a resident of Lake Mary, Florida; Jenkins is a resident of Orlando, Florida; and Sanchez is a resident of Hollywood, Florida. Chilson remains on bond; Jenkins and Sanchez are in custody. All three defendants currently are set to be sentenced on July 20, 2016. The remaining five defendants charged in the case are set for trial on August 8, 2016.
According to documents filed in the case, between Spring 2009 through at least October 2010, Chilson agreed with his coconspirators Jenkins, Sanchez, others charged in the indictment and other coconspirators not charged, to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and telemarketing fraud in connection with a telemarketing scheme that targeted and victimized persons over the age of 55 in the U.S. and in Canada. The government contends it could prove the defendants could reasonably foresee the following losses, incurred by 10 or more victims: Chilson – $7,060,092.00; Jenkins – $5,025,610.00; and Sanchez – $12,755,324.37.
As part of the elaborate telemarketing scheme, the conspirators made unsolicited phone calls to owners of resort timeshare properties to induce them into paying fees associated with the bogus sale of their property. They misrepresented the existence of a buyer for their timeshare and solicited money from them to facilitate the sale. They solicited the 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.
As part of the conspiracy, the defendants also 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.
Further, the defendants falsely represented their companies were global leaders in connecting timeshares to buyers, sellers, and renters; their companies were full-service timeshare resale companies and vacation rental agencies with more than 30 years of experience in timeshares; bona fide buyers were interested in purchasing the owner’s properties and offers exceeded the original amount paid for the properties; buyers had already paid money into an escrow account, been approved by a lender, and were ready to close; the timeshare owner would receive all the funds from the purchase within 45 to 90 days; and that the timeshare owners must pay a one-time fee to cover the title search and other closing costs before the sale could close.
After obtaining money from the timeshare owners and diverting it for their own purposes, the defendants, in order to lull the timeshare owners and cause them to not question, investigate or report the status of the transaction, made additional false and fraudulent statements to the timeshare owners, including advising them they were protected under established telemarketing laws and could cancel their contract and request a refund by mailing written notification within seven days of receiving the contract and advising them they could phone or send correspondence to Resorts Condos Management in Irving, Texas, — which, unbeknownst to the owners was in fact, a boiler room.
Information for Timeshare Owners Affected by the Scheme:
1. If you believe you were the victim of criminal fraud committed by any of the defendants, possibly using the below company names, please go to www.postalinspectorsurvey.com/haffar [external link] and complete the questionnaire:
Resorts Condos Management;
Vision Ventures Inc.;
Timeshare Services Today;
Vacation Equity Marketing, Inc.;
Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin, LLC, also known as Newtek Merchant Solutions;
HES Merchant Services, Inc.;
Interval Equity Marketing, Inc.;
Vacations And Resorts; and
Visionary Investments, LLC.
The information you provide through the questionnaire regarding your experience may be helpful in the criminal investigation and prosecution of this case. A law enforcement agent may contact you with additional questions or to request documents you may have received or submitted during your dealings with these businesses. To access the questionnaire, please go to www.postalinspectorsurvey.com/haffar [external link] and input the user name timeshare and the password uspis.
Please note that submitting the questionnaire is NOT a substitute for consulting with your own attorney to determine what actions and remedies are available to you through civil litigation or other federal or state agencies.
2. You may access the websites for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas http://www.justice.gov/usao/txn/ to obtain more information on the case or the court proceedings.
3. If you have any questions related to this matter that are not addressed at the above website, you may contact the government at the e-mail address USATXN.TimeShareFraud@usdoj.govEmail links icon.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is investigating this fraud. The Orlando Police Department provided substantial assistance in the investigation and apprehension of the defendants. Assistant U.S. Attorney C.S. Heath is prosecuting.