EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (December 27, 2013) — Arantazazu Atorrasagasti, 36, and Carmen L. Picache, 33, both of Orlando, Florida, were sentenced to terms of 30 months and 24 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a nationwide telemarketing scheme that defrauded thousands of people throughout the United States and Canada, including victims in seven counties within the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced. Both women pled guilty in August 2013 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Atorrasagasti and Picache were telemarketers who worked in Orlando for a series of related companies known as “National Solutions.” From 2007 to 2011, the scheme operated under more than a dozen business names, including Bluescape Timeshares International, Country Wide Timeshares, Countrywide Timeshares MA, Landmark Timeshares, Propertys Direct, Quicksale Propertys, Sun Property Networks, Sun Property’s, Universal Propertys, VIM Timeshares, Propertys DRK, Quick Sale Advisers, Quick Sale International, City Resorts, Resort Advisors, American Timeshares, Exit Week, and Resort Advisors International.
Telemarketers for National Solutions placed cold calls to timeshare owners, falsely representing that they had actual buyers interested in purchasing the victim’s unit. Many victims were told that their closings would occur within a matter of days. To accept the deal, victims were required to pay hefty advanced fees (often as much as several thousand dollars), which would supposedly be refunded at closing. The entire business, however, was a fraud. Despite collecting fees from their victims, the National Solutions companies never succeeded in selling a single timeshare unit and indeed made little effort even to market the properties for sale. Instead, Atorrasagasti, Picache, and their co-conspirators simply pocketed the money.
In July 2011, the Federal Trade Commission initiated a civil action against National Solutions and immediately shut the business down pursuant to a federal court order. Documents and records seized by the FTC were shared with the United States Postal Inspection Service in support of a parallel criminal investigation. All told, over 2,500 timeshare owners across the country were scammed by National Solutions to the tune of more than $6 million.
As part of their sentences, both women were ordered to spend five years on supervised release and to pay over $100,000 in restitution to the identified victims of their crimes. One of the conditions of their supervision is that they will not be allowed to perform any telemarketing work without the express consent of the United States Probation Office.
These prosecutions – two out of several dozen timeshare resale fraud prosecutions brought in the Southern District of Illinois – are the result of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Midwest Regional Office of the Federal Trade Commission. The cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael J. Quinley and Nathan D. Stump.
PRESS RELEASE SOURCE: Office of the District Attorney for Southern Illinois