>> INTERNATIONAL TIMESHARE NEWS
EVERYWHERE: GOOD NEWS! This week I have some uplifting news about the swindlers operating timeshare scams from Mexico: Eleven of them have been arrested, indicted and are either awaiting trial or have already pled guilty and been sentenced.
Let’s start with Gilbert Brett Freeman (aka Brett Almaraz and Brett Ford), a 44-year-old jackass who led a scheme to defraud more than 1,400 owners by falsely promising that he would sell their Mexican timeshares to corporate buyers. Freeman and others collected payments from the owners for fictitious fees and taxes that he claimed were required to complete Mexican real estate deals, and that he promised would be refunded upon closing. Does that scheme sound familiar?
Freeman, who hailed from the Chicago, IL area, operated his scam from offices in Puerto Vallarta (where he sometimes lived), Cancun and San Miguel de Allende. He was nabbed by U.S. authorities in 2012 while in Las Vegas, NV (where he was renting a Lamborghini for $1,399 per day; that’s how profitable those resale scams are!). According to the charges against him, he was involved with various Mexican-based companies, including Closing Services Online, First American Resale, Global Closing Services, Global Consultants, International Resorts Resale, International Timeshare Consolidators, Property Management Solutions, Resort Closing Services, Resort Resale, Timeshare Closing Service, Timeshare Consolidators, Timeshare Liquidators, Transfer My Timeshare and Vacation Resort Getaways.
The scams began in 2008 and continued in various forms until January 2015. Following his arrest, the case against him and his co-conspirators was transferred to Chicago and in 2014 he pled guilty to 5 counts of wire fraud; this month he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the $4.8 million swindle.
Here’s how it worked — and this should be very familiar to anyone who has been following the Mexico resale scam issues in this blog for the last few years:
At Freeman’s direction, “lead generators” contacted the timeshare owners and explained that the companies could coordinate the sale of their properties. When an owner expressed interest, company employees known as “liners” followed up to arrange the first payment, which the liners claimed would be refundable even though it wasn’t.
“Closers” from the companies were then brought in to convince the owners to make additional payments to cover the bogus fees and taxes that were purportedly needed to complete the deal, according to the charges. Closers and liners received commissions for each payment collected from the timeshare owners.
The final step involved purported “escrow employees,” who claimed to represent independent businesses and who assured the owners that their money would be securely held until reimbursement. In reality, there were no such escrow agreements, and the so-called escrow representatives were actually working for one of Freeman’s companies, according to the charges.
Here is a link to the actual complaint filed against Freeman and his co-conspirators that explains everything in minute detail. Get that popcorn going and settle in for a read that will have you steaming.
In all, eleven defendants have been charged in the scheme. Four defendants, including Freeman, have pled guilty, while the others have pled not guilty and are awaiting trial. The ten defendants besides Freeman include:
- Donnie R Holton,
- David M Hutchinson, (aka David Strickland)
- Mauricio Vega Aguilar, (aka Moe, Tom Wagner, Marco Antonio Smith, Don Costas)
- Craig R Malton, (aka David Windsor)
- Erick Rodriguez, (aka Ricky Moreno and Eddie Monroy)
- Victor Alberto Sandoval Rios,
- Raymundo Eleazar Barron Ortega,
- Amado Estevez Cancino,
- Michelle J Pedelaborde, (aka Sofia Connors, Jessica Sampson)
- Duane G Rogers (Dane Torpey, Mike Ford)
I found a minute entry filed on Nov. 11, 2015 that was particularly interesting. It said:
MINUTE entry before the Honorable Elaine E. Bucklo: as to Gilbert Brett Freeman. At the hearing at which Mr. Freeman asked to have retained attorney Beau Brindley substituted for appointed counsel, I inquired as to the propriety of using CJA funds for prior counsel if defendant had funds to hire counsel. I was told [by attorney Beau Brindley] that “some family members of his in Mexico were able to reach out to me over the weekend and come up with what I requested, and I have now received that.” I inquired who was paying for defendant’s representation. Mr. Brindley responded that he did not “know the necessary relationship between whoever it was that provided the funds” and that “this is not his money by any stretch of the imagination.” The financial department of the courts is now understandably questioning why CJA vouchers of $62,631.62 should have been paid when a defendant has access to funds to hire an attorney. I agree that more information is needed. By December 1, 2015, defendant shall file an affidavit stating who is paying for his defense, the relationship between that person and himself, the amount that is being paid, and explain why these funds were not previously available.
I’m not sure how that turned out, but the court docket shows 2 things: Beau Brindley as being retained, and Gilbert Freeman as representing himself PRO SE.
At any rate, this is a hopeful sign for victims of timeshare-related fraud in Mexico that justice CAN be served. Will the victims of those particular grifters get any of their money back? That’s extremely doubtful, but at least this band of thieves has been stopped and will spend some time in the slammer.
That’s better than a sharp stick in the eye. 😉
What you need to do if you are a victim of a scam is contact the authorities:
- Your local police; There’s little they can do, but it does provide an official record
- your state attorney general’s office; Make sure to mention it is an international, multi-state scam so they can coordinate with other attorneys general
- the FBI via IC3 (a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. The IC3 not only collects complaints but also analyzes them, links similar complaints, and discerns patterns in order to help law enforcement identify the scammers);
- the US Marshals Service;
- Interpol – United States Central Bureau; Interpol’s databases help law enforcement see the big picture of international crime. While other agencies have their own extensive crime databases, the information rarely extends beyond one nation’s borders. Interpol can track criminals and crime trends around the world. They maintain collections of fingerprints and face photos, lists of wanted persons, DNA samples and travel documents. Their lost and stolen travel document database alone contains more than 12 million records. They also analyze all these data and release information on crime trends to the member countries.
- the Department of Justice – Office of International Affairs; and anyone else you can think of.
It isn’t likely to help get anyone’s funds back, but eventually it might help obtain some sort of justice in shutting them down/getting some of them arrested. Keep in mind that many of the scammers are US Citizens, Canadians and Brits; they can all be prosecuted (including Mexicans) if enough evidence is collected by authorities and if they can then be located and arrested.
As I’ve been warning everyone for years, IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THE NAMES OF THE COMPANIES ARE!!! All that matters is the way the scams work! They all follow a similar pattern, and you can read all about the patterns of the main scams (resale/rental and refund/recovery) at these links:
As I’ve said before, it’s the old adage in action: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Never ever wire funds to a supposed escrow account in Mexico!
“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” –Alice Roosevelt Longworth