United States Attorney James L. Santelle of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that Mark S. Parks (age: 40) of Denmark, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison by Chief United States District Court Judge William C. Griesbach. Parks had previously pled guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and was also subject to an enhanced penalty under the “Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams” or SCAMS Act for his role in operating a telemarketing fraud that targeted individuals over the age of 55 years old.
Parks was indicted last year along with seven others for his role in operating a fraudulent timeshare resale scheme located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which resulted in over three thousand victims in all fifty states and Canada being defrauded of approximately $2.5 million. The scheme spanned from April 2007 to April 2011, and operated under several different business entities, including: Integrated Advertising Solutions, National Timeshare Resales, Administrative Timeshare Resales, and Midwest Timeshares. Despite the execution of a federal search warrant in April 2011, evidence showed Parks continued to operate under the name Time4Cash, LLC out of an office in Appleton, Wisconsin, until his arrest in July 2013. The court found that Parks was a leader in the conspiracy, and had worked in numerous timeshare resale scams since 2001.
Evidence showed that timeshare owners, most of them elderly, were contacted by telemarketers and told that “interested buyers” were prepared to purchase their timeshares in exchange for upfront fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. After handing over their payment information, victims received a one page contract which informed them that they were merely paying for “advertising” on the company’s website. Telemarketers determined the fee amount based solely on the vulnerability and susceptibility of the victims to their deceitful sales pitch. Victims that contacted the companies seeking a refund or inquiring about the status of the sale of their timeshare were repeatedly told lies or given excuses designed to keep them from contacting their financial institution and stopping payment to the fraudulent entities. Many of the victims, desperate to unburden themselves of yearly maintenance fees charged by their timeshare resort, had fallen victim to similar schemes in the past.
In pronouncing sentence Chief Judge Griesbach noted the high number of victims, their level of vulnerability, and the millions of dollars in loss suffered as a result of the defendant’s fraud. The judge described Parks’ fraudulent acts as “deliberate and sophisticated” and noted that it was a “very aggravated conspiracy” that “preyed on the elderly in a very cruel way.” In addition to his prison sentence, Parks was ordered to pay restitution to his victims and was placed on three years of supervised release.
This case was a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Better Business Bureau, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew L. Jacobs and Daniel R. Humble.
Over the past decade similar timeshare resale telemarketing schemes have grown exponentially, due to a glut of timeshare ownership and rising maintenance fees. Many of these fraudulent schemes are operated by companies based in Florida and Nevada. Timeshare owners receiving solicitations to sell or advertise their ownership interests should contact the Federal Trade Commission, United States Postal Inspection Service, local FBI office, their State’s office of consumer protection, or State Attorney General’s office