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Mexico Timeshare FRAUD: March 26, 2016

scam warning >> INTERNATIONAL TIMESHARE NEWS

EVERYWHERE: A few days ago the boss and the fellow who handles advertising for ITG received an email from someone who appears to be referring to (and participating in) the Mexico scams I’ve been reporting on for a few years now. The email was passed around and we all got a chuckle out of it even as it left us scratching our heads with bemusement.

The subject line said: MONEY HIGHLY IMPORTANT. The sender called himself Oscar Rivas (real name?). The body read as follows (copied exactly):

Hello ; )

We all know that you are a scam also INSIDE THE GATE ..

So why dont we all quit this and make money: why do you not interfere with our business. Do you want money ar what do you get out of it ??

Thanks

This isn’t the first time the grifters in Mexico (and elsewhere) have referred to InsideTheGate as a scam, but previously it’s been attempts to divert attention from their own fraud by trying to convince their victims that we’re the bad guys. You know, a little smoke-and-mirrors action going on.

This is the first time any of the flim-flammers have directly contacted us, though — not counting the dire threats against our persons left as voice messages on our phone service — and I found myself wondering what would make Rivas or anyone else think an online news and information service like InsideTheGate is a scam? That’s all we are, after all; an online news publication that includes a blog and reports on the shared ownership industry. We make our money the same way every other news publication does, via advertising. There’s no mystery to that.

I idly wonder if they have ever visited the front page of insidethegate.com, which is thousands of pages deep and contains all sorts of wonderful stuff, or even the full current front page of this blog, The GateHouse, to see the full monty of the publication? Or do they think that The GateHouse and InsideTheGate are one and the same or that the Mexico FRAUD section is all there is? Or do they assume because they’re cheats and liars everyone else is, too?

As for the rest of it, I’m DELIGHTED to have it confirmed that I am interfering with their business! And what do I get from it?

satisfaction

Yeah, baby!!!

Now, follow me below the squiggle to learn some newly named scammers working diligently to steal your money.
squiggly line

The following story is all to common, I’m sorry to say, but the writer courageously shares it with us in the hopes that it can help others avoid becoming victims. AND he names names! (Note that I have provided red fonts to identify the companies involved)

    Oh, if I had only found your website 5 months ago!

    Now, I read your articles weekly, and am truly amazed at how many crooks there are out there. Rest assured, I have told all of my contacts about your website … and keep up the terrific work to report this group of low-lifers out there.

    I too, have been taken for a very expensive ride.  I am so embarrassed at how gullible I have been.  I am putting it off to “old age”, but certainly does not make me feel any better about my position, and empty bank account.

    I will not bore you with all of my details, I’m sure you have heard them many times before.  The transactions I have gone through for the past 5 months are almost identical to what you have outlined.  I have, as of yesterday, filed fraudulent claims with all of the authorities you mention in your website.  Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, local police, etc.

    I would, however, like to add some names and organizations to your fraud list.  I suspect you may want to look into the companies prior to publicizing the names and contacts.

  • Initial contact from:
      • Ace Travel Agency Inc.
      • Jacob Stitt, Agent
      • 702 W. Idaho Street, Suite 1100
      • Boise, Idaho  83702
      • Phone:  (208)591-6042
  • Subsequent contact with escrow company:
    • Metropolitan Title and Escrow Services LLC
    • Caroline Ochoa, Escrow Officer
    • 50 South Steele Street, Suite 250
    • Denver, Colorado  80209
    • Phone:  (303)954-4862

My loss —

      • Total funds wired:
        • $29,359.32 USD
          • 10% Transfer Fee – $4,813.20 USD
          • 16% IVA Tax – $7,701.12 USD
          • Free and Clear Certificate – $4,500.00 USD
          • Excess of Income Charge – $9,145.00 USD
          • Excess of Wire Fee – $3,200.00 USD
    I have attempted to contact Metropolitan Title and Escrow Services LLC for the past month; calling 4 or 5 times daily.  I have left numerous messages, have sent numerous emails.  I finally managed to get someone to answer the phone today at Metropolitan, to advise me of the status of my refund.  I was advised there is an insurance charge for $3,500 USD on my account to be paid before the funds can be released.  Of course, this charge will be refunded to me along with the rest of my funds ( R-I-G-H-T … I have heard that before ).  Needless to say, they will not be receiving any additional funds.  I found it interesting …. Caroline was not in the office, but the male I spoke with at Metropolitan indicated his name was “Jurie”, his voice and telephone mannerisms were identical to that of Jacob Stitt from Ace Travel. (Could it be?)

    I thank you for your time, and congratulate you on the terrific job you do on your website.  Just wish I would have found you sooner!

And here’s the rundown: Metropolitan Title and Escrow Services LLC was registered as a business in Colorado in 2005; it was voluntarily dissolved in 2008 and suddenly reinstated on August 11, 2015 (it only costs $100 to reinstate a defunct corporation or llc in Colorado). This is an increasingly common tactic used by con-artists to provide them with a patina of legitimacy. What you will find at the address they provide (50 South Steele Street, Suite 250, Denver, Colorado) is Cherry Creek Executive Suites — you know, the kind of place where you can set up a virtual office, rent a mailbox, arrange for call forwarding, stuff like that. The company does NOT maintain an office there.

Ace Travel Agency Inc. was originally incorporated in 1978 with a Coeur d’Alene address, and it was administratively dissolved in 2009. In July 2015 it was reinstated by someone named Shirley Ann Pappas with a new address in Boise. It only cost her $30 for the reinstatement, cheap at half the price, amirite? The address provided resolves to the Key Business Center, which provides virtual offices similar to those mentioned above.

Frankly, the fact that Ace works in concert with Metropolitan is enough to identify it as a loosie goosie outfit that you should steer clear of. But to ice the cake, here’s another goodie. Their website describes their history like this:

Our story starts way back in 1995, in a magical era where flares were fashionable and affordable adventures were scarce. The location was San Diego where two young students had just returned from their travels, slightly jetlagged but on the biggest high of their lives.

Inspired by the planet, the people they had met and the places they had seen, they set out on a mission to bring affordable flights and worldly adventures to other students, young people and explorers. The result was Ace Travel Agency.

That was over 20 years ago, and we’ve been travelling the world spreading love, peace and adventure ever since!

Today we have almost 1,000 people working in over 200 stores around the globe, helping over a million travellers a year start their adventure.

Really? 1995? 20 years? San Diego?

And BTW, that page once belonged to a different scam; they simply changed the name but left the text and photo the same. Sloppy lying, very careless indeed.

That’s it for this week, but sadly there’s plenty more to report. Stay tuned.



“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” –Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Tip JarDo you have tips or rumors you’d like to share ANONYMOUSLY? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? Help fill up the Tips Jar so we can share it with the whole Timeshare World! CONTACT: [email protected]

Permanent link to this article: http://www.insidethegate.com/gatehouse/2016/03/mexico-timeshare-fraud-march-26-2016/

4 comments

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  1. Gloria Cantor

    RE: Metropolitan Title and Escrow Services. i too wish i had found your website sooner. it seems that we do our research after the scam. Fortunately i did not wire funds as instructed, but suffered a loss of almost $800.00 Canadian dollars after transferring funds from my credit line to my US account. While at the bank, and trying to transfer the funds to the Courier service, my bank teller became very suspicious of where the funds were being transferred to, and literally refused to send the wire until I had further clarification.
    The end result was that we started to do due diligence in our research, and came to the conclusion that it was indeed a scam. Unfortunately, the Canadian dollar strengthened against the US dollar, and I am out almost $800.00 in the exchange process.
    What bothers me the most is that I was so easily taken in by “Yuri Shimon” who I identified with as being of the same ethnic heritage as my own. We had lovely conversations, sharing family information, and a feeling of getting to know each other.
    we were to transfer funds to a courier service to pay for a Foreign investment certificate with the Mexican Government SAT department. The buyer was a representative of TELEMEX, Mexico’s private telephone company, buying up timeshares to use as vacation perks for employees.
    They provided what I now believe to be a false government form. I spoke to a Sophia from SAT, which I now believe was also in the fraud. I later learned from a time Share salesperson friend in Mexico that it is all a scam, that Mexico does not require a Foreign Investment certificate for the sale of Timeshares.

    I am collecting all the information to forward to Vidante (Mayan Palace) for their information. The story is not over as yet, as this all happened today. I will be speaking with Yuri when he calls tomorrow. I have already advised him that I think that his offer is fraudulent. Stay tuned for the next chapter.




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    1. gatekeeper

      Gloria, what you described in the quote below is a type of “affinity fraud” on a small scale; affinity fraud is when one person gains the trust of others because they share the same religion, race, ethnicity, career or other social characteristic and then deceives them in some kind of financial transaction. The SEC has an excellent rundown on this at https://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/affinity.htm Bernie Madoff is probably the best known perpetrator of this kind of fraud.

      What bothers me the most is that I was so easily taken in by “Yuri Shimon” who I identified with as being of the same ethnic heritage as my own. We had lovely conversations, sharing family information, and a feeling of getting to know each other.




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  2. stodgman

    I have a couple of names to add to your list. I was contacted by Realty 21 who said they wanted to buy my timeshare for more than I paid. Their escrow company is California Capital.
    Realty 21 is purportedly at 1230 Monterey Pass Rd. Monterey Park, CA 91754
    Phone: 323-282-5785 « Fax: 323-417-4910
    [email protected] « [email protected]

    California Capital address is a UPS store at 14252 Culver Dr. #654 | Irvine, CA 92604 |Phone: (949) 381 1113 |Fax: (949) 449 2165
    Email: [email protected] |www.cali-capital.com

    It smelled really fishy from the start but it was sooooo attractive. I eventually called my resort and asked about this. They explained the scam and their search criteria led me here.
    Thanks and a tip of the hat for the heads up.




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  3. Time Share Fraud in Coco del Playa, Costa Rica-again

    Time Share Scam in Playa Del Coco,
    Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
    3/5-12/2016

    We exchanged through Interval International for what was to be our bucket-list trip and it turned into a nightmare. Bahia Turquesa is apparently a collection of condo/timeshares which has been renamed to avoid association with time share scammers who have operated in this area for at least 5 years as noted on the web.

    CHECK-IN: Perhaps because of that, Bahia Turquesa, was not well marked and we drove by it several times before finding the registration office. My Passport was immediately scanned, and then after a wait of at one half-hour we were escorted to another unmarked office in the complex, where “Leonardo” was to “check us in”. “Check-in” consisted of inviting us to attend a complimentary breakfast at the Café de Playa and spend the day at their private Beach Club. I said we weren’t interested, we already had timeshares, and my husband jokingly asked if he would like to buy ours. It was hot and we were tired. We just wanted to get to our room, eventually we agreed. Along with several other cars, we were finally escorted by golf cart to our studio unit, on the hillside overlooking the pool. The PARKING was free, but there was not enough space, placing vehicles in peril.

    Our studio turned out to be 3 stories up, with a back entrance. My husband uses walking sticks. This was a difficult climb as there were 2 flights of stairs just to get to pool level. A staff member carried one suitcase, handed me an inventory sheet to sign, pressuring me to sign, without checking to see if the items listed were actually there. The inventory sheet states that a staff inspection will be done before you can check-out. I insisted on checking to make sure all items were in the room. Several items, including a toaster and wine opener, were missing and the safe needed a battery. He said the missing items would be delivered and did not offer to carry the remaining luggage up to the unit. Although the safe was made operational within the hour, the items were not delivered after repeated requests. The room appeared old, in need of paint and update, and the floor covering had shrunk with ½ gaps between tiles. There was a bed and a couch for sleeping. The bathroom was very small, with only a shower, and had mildew/dirt around the edges of the floor. Supplies are limited and communication with the office is difficult as there was no house phone. The walk is long when the small roll of toilet paper runs out. The Internet is spotty and never worked in our unit. The shared roof top balcony had one small, broken plastic table and a couple of chairs, but no BBQ. Great for watching the sunset; not a pleasant place to eat.

    COSTA RICA PRIVATE RESIDENCES: We were escorted to the “presentation”, assigned to a “salesperson” (Ray or Ricardo?) for a nice breakfast, immediate arrangements were made to move us to one of “our nicer” units, and then we were taken to a table in their “club office”. Costa Rica Private Residences is supposedly an exclusive residence club membership with greater access than traditional time shares. Though it has been marketed for at least 2 years, they are “waiting for final permits” and have yet to break ground. Their main focus was to relieve us of the four deeded time share we have owned for decades, maintenance fees, and the need to deal with RCI and Interval. Within minutes, Lloyd Parrish, who described himself as the developer/contractor and seemed to be in charge, came back with all the information about our ownerships. Eventually, he offered us over $90,000 for the four. In return, we were to purchase 8 weeks/year share of Costa Rica Private Residences at a “discounted rate”, allowing us a sizeable sum leftover. Instead of maintenance fees, we would pay $895/occupied week and unlimited opportunity to exchange for exclusive hotel stays throughout the world thru a Life time membership in Holiday Systems International (HIS). Finally, for only $99/year, we would be assigned a concierge to help coordinate travel, meet us at the airport and transport us to our resort/hotels around the world without additional charge except tips. Other perks included a guarantee to buy back after 2 years and their right of first refusal, should we decide to sell, for the next 5. They even guaranteed, in writing, that we could continue day use at our local resort for 5 years. Our local resort denies that could ever happen when we called them after returning to US. The promises were very attractive and their “affiliated US companies included Stewart Title, Corporate Capital, and HIS” all rated “A+” by BBB web search on the computer they provided.

    The short story is that we were pressured to sign and pay several thousand dollars that day before completing the contract on the following day. Unfortunately, we did so with misgivings and left with a list of phone numbers and emails to contact if we had questions or buyer’s remorse. As soon as we left, we realized the document we signed was not exactly the same as the verbal presentations. Major was the fact that the credit card charge was not to the residences, but to Sunset Coco Sharing––after they had denied all association Sunset Coco and their “shenanigans”, the HSI membership was paid for only 1 year, and, and according to Cynthia, the signing agent, the fee for “banking” was also $895/wk. My “down payment” which did not go to any of the US companies listed, or to the Residences—had to be made today, but details about their payment to us was vague and would take at least 3 months. I immediately contacted Chase to dispute the charge. We were unable to reach any of the local numbers we were given and emails were not answered. Next day we returned to the Club stating our desire to end the contract, declaring we would not sign further papers, and declining the offer to move us to a nicer unit. Suddenly they were scarce. After hiring a local attorney to prepare and deliver a legal withdrawal, we returned the paperwork as demanded in the contract and were told by Cynthia Urena, who signs all contracts, that our money would be refunded and that she would contact us on Monday-March 14, 2016, after our return to the US. There has been no communication from anyone, since. They do not respond to repeated emails or telephone. The Chase charge, first disputed on the day of signing, has been sent to Chase’s special “time share investigation department” and the charge remains on my statement. We are professionals in our 70s, survivors of many time share presentations, and are embarrassed to admit we did not survive this. A warning anyone who travels to Playa del Coco, BEWARE.




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