United States of America vs. Christopher Robert Garten
United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
Criminal No.: 14-30006-DRH
UPCOMING EVENTS: Jury trial has been re-set for December 15, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. in East St. Louis Illinois Federal Courthouse before Chief Judge David R. Herndon.
On January 23, 2014, a grand jury returned a one count indictment charging Christopher Robert Garten with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with telemarketing. The indictment alleges that Garten, and others were engaged in an extensive telemarketing scam which operated in Orlando, Florida that bilked thousands of victims of approximately $6 million dollars, victimizing consumers throughout the United States and Canada. There were victims in seven of the thirty eight (38) counties comprising the Southern District of Illinois.
The criminal indictment alleges that Garten was a telemarketer who worked for National Solutions and related companies located in Orlando, Florida. The scheme operated under more than a dozen business names including Bluescape Timeshares International, Country Wide Timeshares, Countrywide Timesharesales MA, Landmark Timeshares, Propertys Direct, Quicksale Propertys, Sun Property Networks, Sun Property’s, Universal Propertys, VIM Timeshares, Propertys DRK, Quick Sale Advisers, Quick Sale International, City Resorts, Resort Advisers, American Timeshares, Exit Week, and Resort Advisors International. The indictment alleges that his participation in the scheme began on or about January 7, 2011 and continued through July 13, 2011. The indictment alleges that telemarketers for National 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 a number of days. Despite collecting fees from these victims, these companies were not successful in selling a single timeshare unit, the indictment alleged. Garten and his co-conspirators, the indictment alleges, simply pocketed these supposed closing costs.
If convicted of the charge, the defendant faces a term of imprisonment of up to twenty five (25) years, a $250,000 fine and five years’ supervised release.
The Federal Trade Commission investigated the National Solutions businesses and brought a civil complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando. In that action the FTC seized the offices and records of National Solutions on July 13, 2011 pursuant to Court Order.
This new indictment follows the successful prosecutions of three other timeshare resale schemes by the USAO in the SDIL during the last three years.
This prosecution follows an investigation by the Midwest Region Office of the Federal Trade Commission and the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. The prosecution of the case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Quinley and Liam Coonan, as well as U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton.
Consumers who believe that they have been the victim of a consumer fraud should call the Federal Trade Commission 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or file an online complaint at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.