Eight Arrested For Role In Timeshare Telemarketing Fraud Scheme That Targeted Individuals Age 55 And Older
U.S. Postal Inspectors Request Anyone Who May Have Been Affected By The Scheme To Provide Information Through
DALLAS — Eight residents of Florida were arrested or self-surrendered over the past few days on charges outlined in a federal indictment returned by a grand jury in Dallas last month and unsealed last week. The allegations in the indictment stem from the operation of a telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted persons over the age of 55. The announcement was made today by John Parker, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
The eight-count indictment charges each of the below-listed defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and telemarketing fraud and seven substantive counts of mail fraud, telemarketing fraud, and aiding and abetting. Each defendant made his initial appearance last week before various U.S. Magistrate Judges in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida. The eight defendants who appeared were released on various bond conditions, and most were ordered to appear for arraignment in the Northern District of Texas on March 30, 2015, at 2:00 p.m.
Max Joseph Chilson, 36, of Lake Mary, Florida.
Gunner Dell Jenkins, 36, of Orlando, Florida.
Antonio Enrique Martinez, 43, of Kissimmee, Florida.
Richard Mendez, 44, of Kissimmee, Florida.
Victor Sanchez, 45, of Hollywood, Florida.
Angelina Laboy Smith, 37, of Orlando, Florida.
Harold Eugene Smith, a/k/a H.E. Smith, 72, of Kissimmee, Florida.
Jonathon Edward Warren, 32, of Winter Garden, Florida.
The indictment alleges that from at least March 2009 to March 2011, the above defendants conspired together and with others to commit mail, wire, bank and telemarketing fraud in connection with a telemarketing scheme that targeted and victimized persons over the age of 55 in the U.S. and in Canada. As part of the elaborate scheme, the conspirators made unsolicited phone calls to owners of resort timeshare properties to induce them into paying fees associated with the bogus sale of their property. They misrepresented the existence of a buyer for their timeshare and solicited money from them to facilitate the sale. They solicited the timeshare owners to enter into agreements to sell their timeshares and pay for alleged “closing costs” with their credit cards, personal checks, bank checks, or through electronic check conversion.
As part of the conspiracy, the defendants also instituted a bogus telephone verification process to make follow-up phone calls to the targeted timeshare owners to give them the false impression they were dealing with entities that would protect their money and property, and to trick them into making recorded statements that no sale had been promised by the telemarketers.
Further, the defendants falsely represented their companies were global leaders in connecting timeshares to buyers, sellers, and renters; their companies were full-service timeshare resale companies and vacation rental agencies with more than 30 years of experience in timeshares; bona fide buyers were interested in purchasing the owner’s properties and offers exceeded the original amount paid for the properties; buyers had already paid money into an escrow account, been approved by a lender, and were ready to close; the timeshare owner would receive all the funds from the purchase within 45 to 90 days; and that the timeshare owners must pay a one-time fee to cover the title search and other closing costs before the sale could close.
After obtaining money from the timeshare owners, the defendants, in order to lull the timeshare owners and cause them to not question, investigate or report the status of the transaction, made additional false and fraudulent statements to the timeshare owners, including advising them they were protected under established telemarketing laws and could cancel their contract and request a refund by mailing written notification within seven days of receiving the contract and advising them they could phone or send correspondence to Resorts Condos Management in Irving, Texas, — which, unbeknownst to the owners was in fact, a boiler room.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. However, if convicted, the conspiracy count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in federal prison, a mandatory 10-year penalty and a $1 million fine. Each of the seven remaining substantive counts carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a mandatory 10-year penalty and up to a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered.
Information for Timeshare Owners Affected by the Scheme:
1. If you believe you were the victim of criminal fraud committed by any of the defendants, possibly using the below company names, please go to www.postalinspectorsurvey.com/haffar and complete the questionnaire:
Resorts Condos Management;
Vision Ventures Inc.;
Timeshare Services Today;
Vacation Equity Marketing, Inc.;
Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin, LLC, also known as Newtek Merchant Solutions;
HES Merchant Services, Inc.;
Interval Equity Marketing, Inc.;
Vacations And Resorts; and
Visionary Investments, LLC.
The information you provide through the questionnaire regarding your experience may be helpful in the criminal investigation and prosecution of this case. A law enforcement agent may contact you with additional questions or to request documents you may have received or submitted during your dealings with these businesses. To access the questionnaire, please go to www.postalinspectorsurvey.com/haffar and input the user name timeshare and the password uspis.
Please note that submitting the questionnaire is NOT a substitute for consulting with your own attorney to determine what actions and remedies are available to you through civil litigation or other federal or state agencies.
2. On or after March 30, 2015, you may access the websites for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas http://www.justice.gov/usao/txn/to obtain more information on the case or the court proceedings.
3. If you have any questions related to this matter that are not addressed at the above website, you may contact the government on or after March 30, 2015, at the e-mail address USATXN.TimeShareFraud@usdoj.gov.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is investigating this fraud. The Orlando Police Department provided substantial assistance in the investigation and apprehension of the defendants. Assistant U.S. Attorney C.S. Heath is prosecuting.