FLORIDA MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN LATEST PROSECUTION ARISING OUT OF FLORIDA TIMESHARE RESALE TELEMARKETING SCAM
Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that on September 8, 2011, Ralph Johnson, 34, of Delray Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty to a one count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud The plea was entered in federal district court in East St. Louis, Illinois.
“While I urge consumers to always be wary of internet or telephone solicitations which sound too good to be true, I will never cease in my determination to prosecute scammers who prey upon the citizens of Southern Illinois!” said United states Attorney Wigginton.
This is the fourth prosecution 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. The criminal information alleges 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 alleges 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 Indictment alleges.
The criminal information alleges that Johnson participated in the scheme during 2009. Other court filings allege that the larger scheme operated between 2007 and 2010.
Defendant faces a penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to five years. His sentencing is scheduled for December 16, 2011 in East St. Louis, Illinois.
This is the fourth prosecution by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois related to Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions. 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 October 24, 2011 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. On August 19, 2011, Joel Intravaia entered a plea of guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. His sentencing is scheduled for December 9, 2011.
The guilty plea 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.