Owner Of $14.5 Million Telemarketing Scam Surrenders In Southern Illinois
Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced that Kristina R. Cameron, 35, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, surrendered herself to the United States Marshals Service in East St. Louis, Illinois, yesterday in response to an arrest warrant issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The arrest warrant was issued on June 17, 2014, after a federal grand jury returned an Indictment charging Cameron with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. The charge carries a term of imprisonment of up to 25 years, a fine of $250,000 and five years of supervised release.
The Indictment alleges that Cameron was one of the owners of C&G Marketing Associates, LLC, a Florida corporation which, in 2009, defrauded consumers across the continent using the fictitious name, Premier Timeshare Solutions (“PTS”). PTS telemarketers worked in an office building in West Palm Beach, Florida. From there, they placed phone calls to timeshare owners, falsely representing or implying that the company had found someone who wanted to buy the person’s timeshare. In exchange for an advance fee that typically exceeded $1,000, the PTS telemarketers promised to handle all the details of the sale and send the victims the proceeds after closing. Once the victims had paid the advance fee, however (usually by giving the telemarketer their credit card information), the fraudulent company simply pocketed the money. There were no interested buyers, the closings did not occur, and the timeshares were not resold.
Victims who called PTS to check on the status of their transactions were directed to customer service representatives, managed by PTS co-owner Jose Goyos, whose goal was to perpetuate the fraud by delaying and discouraging chargebacks and complaints. To accomplish that goal, representatives would lie to victims, assuring them that despite some phony, unexpected delay, their timeshare unit was still going to be sold. Repeat callers were given a series of bogus excuses, none of which had any basis in fact. By instilling a false sense of hope, PTS aimed to delay the chargeback process beyond the time that most credit card issuers allow for disputes. Goyos was indicted in September 2013 and sentencing to 96 months of imprisonment on May 2, 2014.
The Indictment returned Tuesday charges that, after PTS was shut down in late 2009, Cameron continued to defraud consumers by opening and operating another timeshare re-sale fraud scheme known as Commercial Property Partners, LLC (“CPP”). Then, according to the Indictment, after CCP shut down in 2010, Cameron operated another fraudulent telemarketing business known as Federal Fee Recovery, LLC (“Federal Fee”). Federal Fee telemarketers called victims of timeshare re-sale scams, including PTS and CPP, and, in return for an upfront fee, falsely promised that they could help the victims recover what they had lost due to the timeshare re-sale scams.
Several others have been charged in connection with PTS and two defendants have pled guilty. Last month, the grand jury returned ten one-count indictments in connection with this scheme. On June 17, 2014, in addition to indicting Cameron, the federal grand jury returned indictments against three additional PTS employees. During a recent sentencing of Goyos, the Honorable David R. Herndon, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, called timeshare resale fraud an industry that recruits recovering drug addicts to steal from the financially vulnerable – “the most despicable scam in the world.”
United States Attorney Wigginton commented: “Our prosecutions of these cases are part of our ongoing commitment to bring to justice those who perpetrate these telemarketing fraud scams. I have said this before, but it bears repeating: if you get a call from someone you do not know and trust, promising something that sounds too good to be true, it is a scam. Hang up. Then, please report the call to the proper authorities.”
This prosecution is one of nearly 60 timeshare resale fraud prosecutions brought in the Southern District of Illinois over the past four years. The case is part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Department of Agriculture. The prosecution of the cases is being handled by Special Assistant United States Attorney Michael Hallock and Assistant United States Attorney Scott Verseman.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.