Florida Man Sentenced for Role in $30 Million Telemarketing Scam That Victimized Over 22,000 People
Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that Robert Santiago, 25, of Lake Worth, Florida was sentenced yesterday in federal district court to 20 months in prison, 3 years supervised release, and ordered to pay a $300 fine and a $100 special assessment fee. Santiago pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. The indictment alleged that Santiago and others were involved in a telemarketing scam which operated in Florida that bilked over 22,000 victims of $30 million dollars victimizing 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 indictment alleged that Santiago worked as a telemarketer for a Universal Marketing Solutions/Creative Vacation Solutions franchise in Palm Beach County, Florida. The indictment alleged that the scheme began October 2007 and continued through at least January 2010. Telemarketers for Universal Marketing Solutions and 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 they supervised 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 alleged. Santiago, and his co-conspirators, the indictment alleged, simply pocketed the closing costs.
Approximately twenty-four others have been charged in connection with the Creative Vacation Solutions telemarketing scam, the first of being Jennifer Kirk, who pled guilty to a criminal Information on June 30, 2011. She was sentenced on January 9, 2012 to over 16 years in prison and five years supervised release.
The prosecution follows an investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Boynton Beach Florida Police Department. The prosecution of the case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce E. Reppert and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Lewis.