News and Press Releases

Florida Man Receives 46 Months in Prison for Role in Florida Timeshare Resale Telemarketing Scam

December 16, 2011

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that Ralph Edward Johnson, 34, of Wellington, Florida, was sentenced today in federal court in East St. Louis to 46 months imprisonment, and given two (2) years supervised release to be served after he is released from prison. The sentencing was the result of his September 8, 2011, plea of guilty to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud for his role in a telemarketing scam. The charge followed a lengthy investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

This is one of several prosecutions arising out of a Florida based telemarketing scam operating under the name Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions targeting owners of timeshares throughout the United States. The information alleges that Johnson was a telemarketer for Creative Vacation Solutions and that he bilked approximately 141 victims of approximately $282,155.58. In previous court filings related to the Universal Marketing Solutions/Creative Vacation Solutions scam, the government has alleged that the overall scam bilked over 22,000 victims of $30 million dollars. Previous court filings have also alleged that the scam victimized consumers in all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, all ten Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territory of Canada. There were at least 54 victims in twenty eight (28) of the thirty eight (38) counties comprising the Southern District of Illinois.

The criminal information filed against Johnson alleged that telemarketers for Creative Vacation Solutions placed cold calls to timeshare owners and then falsely represented that their company had actual buyers for the owners’ timeshare property. Telemarketers then solicited advanced fees of up to several thousand dollars from each victim in purported closing costs that they promised would be refunded to the owner once the closing on the property occurred. Many timeshare owners were told that their closings were scheduled within the next sixty to ninety days. Despite collecting fees from 22,000 victims, these companies were not successful in selling a single timeshare unit, the information alleged. The defendants and their co-conspirators, the information alleged, simply pocketed the closing costs.

The criminal information alleged that Johnson participated in the scheme during 2009. Other court filings allege that the larger scheme operated between 2007 and 2010.

On June 30, 2011, Jennifer Kirk, alleged to be a principal of both companies, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for her role in the alleged scam. Her sentencing is scheduled for January 9, 2012 in East St. Louis. On August 17, 2011, a federal grand jury charged Ryan Brazel, Brian Morris and Steve Folan in a multi-count indictment for their alleged involvement in the alleged scheme. Folan pled guilty on November 17, 2011. His sentencing is set for March 9, 2012 in East St. Louis. Ralph Johnson entered a guilty plea to conspiracy charges filed in a criminal information on September 8, 2011 and his sentencing is scheduled for December 16, 2011 in East St. Louis. On September 21, 2011, Kenneth Foote and Joseph Grizzanti were indicted by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis. On October 7, 2011, each filed a consent to transfer their case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in order to plead guilty to the charges there. Jeffrey Tracey Fields was charged with conspiracy in a criminal information on October 25, 2011. He filed a consent to transfer his case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in order to plead guilty to the charges there. On August 18, 2011 Joel Intravaia pled guilty to a one count information for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. On December 9, 2011, he was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment, three years supervised release, and 150 hours of community service.

This case follows an investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service which was assisted by the Boynton Beach (Florida) Police Department and the Florida Attorney General’s office. The prosecution of the case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce E. Reppert.



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