Florida Woman 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 Erin Todd, 31, of West Palm Beach, Florida was sentenced in federal district court on Friday, January 4, 2013, to 42 months in prison, 5 years supervised release, and ordered to pay a $500 fine and a $100 special assessment fee. Todd was convicted of one count of Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud following a three-day jury trial in September 2012.
The 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 Palm Beach County, 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. Additional evidence introduced at sentencing, however, indicated that, after Todd left Creative Vacation Solutions, she and her co-defendant, David Johnson, operated other timeshare resale scams in Florida that targeted some of the same victims as Creative Vacation Solutions. David Johnson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3 years in prison on December 14, 2012.
Todd is the nineteenth individual to be sentenced in connection with this Florida-based telemarketing scam operating under the names Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions. The scam 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.
Approximately twenty-nine others have been charged and twenty-three have pleaded guilty in connection with the Creative Vacation Solutions telemarketing scam. The first of whom was Jennifer Kirk, who pleaded 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.
This 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 Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Lewis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Stump, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce E. Reppert.