WASHINGTON D.C. (July 25, 2014) — The defendants behind three deceptive timeshare resale operations are banned from selling timeshare property resale services under settlements resolving charges that they lured consumers into paying hefty up-front fees, falsely claiming they had prospective buyers for properties they wanted to sell.
The settlements stem from a crackdown on travel and timeshare resale fraud last year involving 28 states and law enforcement agencies in 10 other countries.
“Timeshare owners should avoid anyone who wants money up front and claims they have a buyer ready and waiting,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If you’re thinking of selling a timeshare unit through a reseller, check them out first. Deal only with licensed real estate brokers and agents, ask for references from satisfied clients, and get everything in writing.”
According to the complaint filed by the FTC and Florida’s Attorney General in the Universal Timeshare case, the defendants claimed they had buyers who would pay a specified price for consumers’ timeshare properties, or that the defendants would quickly sell those timeshares, and charged consumers up to $2,200 in connection with the promised sale. In fact, the defendants did not have buyers lined up to pay any price for consumers’ timeshares. Sheldon Lee Cohen, who resides and operates a telemarketing business in the Dominican Republic, was the mastermind and main perpetrator behind this scam.
The complaint charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), including calling consumers with numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, as well as the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Florida Timeshare Resale Accountability Act. The court subsequently halted the defendants’ deceptive practices, froze their U.S. assets, and appointed a receiver over the two companies, and over Cohen, when doing business as Universal Timeshare Sales Associates and M.G.M. Universal Timeshares, pending litigation.
Under the court order, all of the defendants are banned from selling timeshare resale services. They also are prohibited from violating the TSR and two Florida laws, and from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, including the total cost, any restrictions, the nature or terms of a refund or cancellation policy, and the income likely to be realized. The defaulting defendants (Cohen and his company, Vacation Communications Group LLC) are also banned from telemarketing.
The order imposes a judgment of more than $1.2 million against the settling defendants (Tammie Lynn Cline, Mark Russell Gardner, and their former telemarketing company, Gardner Cline LLC), which will be suspended based on their inability to pay. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. The judgment for $10.2 million against the defaulting defendants is immediately due and payable upon entry of the court order.
The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated final order was 5-0. The judgment was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, on June 16, 2014.
Resort Property Depot and Resort Solution Trust
In May 2013, the FTC alleged that Resort Property Depot Inc. and Narendra “Nick” Patel made unsolicited telemarketing calls to timeshare owners and tricked them into paying fees ranging from $300 to $3,000, and that Resort Solution Trust Inc., Lincoln Renwick II, and Anthony Talavera deceived thousands of consumers into paying advance fees ranging between $800 and $3,400. Consumers did not receive what they were promised, and they were denied refunds. The court subsequently halted the defendants’ allegedly deceptive practices, froze their assets, and put the companies into receivership pending litigation.
Under both settlement orders, in addition to the ban on selling timeshare resale services, the defendants are permanently prohibited from telemarketing, misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, collecting money from customers, selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of customer information.
The settlement order against Resort Property Depot and Patel imposes a judgment of more than $2.6 million, which will be suspended when the defendants have paid $175,000 to the Commission and Patel has surrendered his car and certain bank and investment accounts. A default judgment was entered against Resort Solution Trust in December 2013. The settlement order announced today against Renwick and Talavera imposes a judgment of more than $6.4 million, which will be suspended when Renwick has transferred to the FTC possession of bank accounts and a car. The full judgments will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated final orders was 5-0. The orders against Resort Property Depot, and against Renwick and Talavera, were entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, on July 1, 2014, and June 25, 2014, respectively.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
SOURCE: Federal Trade Commission
FTC Office of Public Affairs