Florida Man Sentenced for Role in $30 Million Telemarketing Scam that Victimized over 22,000 People
Christopher J. Gilkey, 31, formerly of Syracuse, NY, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $17,976 in restitution, a $500 fine, and a $100 special assessment, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today. Gilkey had previously plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for his role in a telemarketing scam operating under the names Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions. Gilkey also pleaded guilty to an Information charging conspiracy to commit mail fraud for his role in a similar telemarketing scam that operated under the name International Resort Solutions.
Gilkey admitted that he, along with many others, were involved in a telemarketing scam that operated under the names Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions. The scam companies, which operated in Florida and bilked over 22,000 victims of $30 million dollars, 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. Gilkey admitted that he was employed by a Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions franchise office as a telemarketer.
Beginning in October 2007 and continuing through at least January 2010, telemarketers for Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions placed cold calls to timeshare owners. During the calls, the telemarketers falsely represented that their company had actual buyers for the owners’ timeshare property. Gilkey and others solicited advanced fees of up to several thousand dollars from each victim in purported closing costs – fees 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 60 to 90 days. Despite collecting fees from 22,000 victims, not a single timeshare unit was ever sold. Gilkey and his co-conspirators simply pocketed the closing costs.
Approximately twenty-nine others have been charged in connection with the Creative Vacation Solutions telemarketing scam. The company’s former chief executive, Jennifer Kirk, 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. Approximately twenty others have also been sentenced, receiving prison terms that range from 1 to 14 years.
Gilkey also admitted that after leaving Creative Vacation Solutions he went to work for a company called International Resort Solutions, LLC, another fraudulent timeshare resale operation with offices in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach, Florida. International Resort Solutions used the same fraudulent business model as Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions, and Gilkey was recruited to work for the company by Jeffrey Fields, another former employee of Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions. In July 2012, Fields was sentenced to 101 months in prison for his role in fraudulent timeshare resale operations.
These prosecutions follow 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, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan Stump and Bruce Reppert.