Florida Woman Found Guilty for Role in Florida Timeshare Resale Telemarketing Scam
Erin P. Todd, 31, of Delray Beach, Florida, was found guilty on September 13, 2012, following a three day jury trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in East St. Louis. After deliberating about twenty five minutes, the jury convicted Todd of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud for her role in a Florida-based timeshare resale telemarketing scam, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today.
Evidence at trial showed that Todd was a low-level telemarketer, referred to as an “opener,” at Creative Vacation Solutions, a timeshare resale telemarketing operation that was based in Greenacres, Florida. Todd’s role as an opener was to reach out as an initial contact to timeshare owners and set them up for a string of false representations centered around a promise that Creative Vacation Solutions had a buyer for an owner’s timeshare. Telemarketers, like Todd, 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 falsely told that their closings were scheduled within the next sixty to ninety days. Despite collecting fees from 22,000 victims, these companies did not sell a single timeshare unit. Todd earned only about $5,600 in her five months working as an opener.
At her sentencing, set for January 4, 2013, Todd faces a term of imprisonment of up to 25 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, a term of up to 5 years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.
Todd is the nineteenth individual to be convicted in connection with this Florida-based telemarketing scam operating under the names Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions which targeted owners of timeshares throughout the United States and Canada. Todd conspired with Jennifer Kirk, the owner of Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions to bilk over 22,000 victims out of $30 million dollars. 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.
Many others have been charged and convicted in connection with the Creative Vacation Solutions telemarketing scam. On June 30, 2011, Jennifer Kirk pled guilty to a criminal information. She was sentenced on January 9, 2012 to over 16 years imprisonment and five years supervised release. On August 17, 2011, a federal grand jury in East St. Louis charged Steve Folan, Ryan Brazel, and Brian Morris in a multi-count indictment for their involvement in the alleged scheme. Folan, Brazel, and Morris pled guilty. Folan was sentenced to 60 months in prison and three years supervised release. Brazel was sentenced to 121 months in prison and 5 years of supervised release. Morris is awaiting sentencing on September 28, 2012. Joel Intravaia pled guilty to conspiracy in an information filed on August 19, 2011. He was sentenced to 60 months in prison and three years supervised release on December 9, 2011. Ralph Johnson entered a guilty plea to conspiracy charges filed in a criminal information on September 8, 2011. He was sentenced on December 16, 2011 to 46 months in prison and two years supervised release. 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. Foote was sentenced to 72 months on May 11, 2012 and Grizzanti was sentenced to 60 months on May 11, 2012 in the Southern District of Florida. 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. Sentencing of Fields is set for July 12, 2012. John Thomas Egan pled guilty to conspiracy charges filed in a criminal information on January 6, 2012. Egan was sentenced to 90 months in prison on September 10, 2012. In March 2012, John Robert Eddy, Cloyd James Holmes, Jr., Gino Christopher Marquez, and Donald Myers were indicted by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. John Robert Eddy entered a plea of guilty on September 10, 2012 and is awaiting sentencing on December 10, 2012. Marquez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 70 months on July 20, 2012. Donald Myers pleaded guilty on August 24, 2012 and is awaiting sentencing on December 3, 2012. Holmes is awaiting trial. In April 2012, Daniel L. Gregg, Joshua G. Schneidau, and Lacey Marie Stone were indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Schneidau entered a plea of guilty on August 17, 2012 and is awaiting sentencing on November 30, 2012. Stone and Gregg, along with Garry A. Brown, Robert Schmucker, and Daniel James Ferrara are all awaiting trial. As to those awaiting trial – they are presumed innocent of the charges unless or until found guilty by a jury.
The investigation was conducted 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 case was tried by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine L. Lewis and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Stump with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bruce E. Reppert and Michael Quinley assisting in the investigation and prosecution.
It’s tempting to believe that fraud only happens to someone else—someone less educated, less sophisticated, less financially astute. But, victims belong to all social and economic classes and age groups. Please remember, it is very important not to give out your bank account, credit card or personal information (date of birth, mother’s maiden name, social security number, etc.) over the telephone, unless it is to a known trusted source.