The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on con artists who take advantage of consumers hit hard by the weak economy. Many defrauded consumers need to sell their timeshares to help pay their living expenses. The FTC said the number of complaints related to fraudulent timeshare resales has more than tripled over the past three years, as more owners attempted to sell their timeshares.
The FTC charged that ring operators in south Florida conned consumers by promising them they had buyers lined up. Only after hefty, up-front payments did they learn there were no buyers and that their money was gone with the defendants, many of whom have long criminal histories. Regulators have asked a federal court to put a stop to deceptive telemarketing operations that "allegedly scammed millions of dollars from property owners hoping to sell their timeshares."
Hundreds of consumer complaints nationwide, involving millions of dollars, have reached the South Florida Better Business Bureau, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General's Office. The BBB has given the firm, Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group Inc., an F rating, the lowest designation it can give a business.
The FTC's complaint is against Timeshare Mega Mediaand Marketing Group Inc., Timeshare Market Pro Inc., Tapia Consulting Inc., Joseph Crapella - also known as Joseph John Philbin, Pasquale Pappalardo, Lisa Tumminia Pappalardo, Pasqualino Agovino, Louis Tobias Duany and Patricia A. Walker. It was filed Oct. 19 in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The court entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants Oct. 20. Read the complaint at tulsaworld.com/FTCtimeshareresales
Before sales could be completed, owners were made to pay $1,996 up-front fees by credit card. The FTC charges that Timeshare Mega Media's representatives claimed fees were for sale-related costs - Realtor fees, closing costs, title searches - all to be refunded at closing. Owners of expensive timeshares were charged 10 percent of asking prices. Consumers were told that sales would close within 30 days, but this never happened.
FTC alleges that after fees were paid, owners were told to expect Timeshare Mega Media contracts when they actually received marketing and advertising contracts. The complaint says many consumers signed and returned these, thinking they were sales contracts. Those questioning their validity were given the run-around and told sales contracts would soon follow. The company never had buyers lined up, and when consumers discovered this and demanded their money back, they got nothing - not even phone calls returned.
The FTC seeks to permanently stop the defendants' alleged illegal conduct and to provide refunds to consumers harmed by their violations of the FTC Act and Telemarketing Sales Rule.
This article is from tulsaworld.com by PHIL MULKINS, Tulsa World Action Line Editor.