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EVERYWHERE: This week’s exposé is about Riverside Travel Services and Chatham Escrow, which I’ve covered before. But to help future potential victims avoid their trap, one of their victims has given permission to share his experience with you (of course I’ve redacted his identity to protect his privacy). He said, “Feel free to use my story. I wish I would have known about your website before this got started. I made the mistake of trusting the BBB for my research. I also wanted to unload this timeshare so badly that I didn’t trust my gut feelings about the legitimacy of this deal.”
Here, in detail, is how these scam companies steal money from you. Pay attention and remember that though the companies you’re dealing with might have different names they’re running the same identical scam! They’ll start by assuring you that no upfront money is involved — but here’s how that ends up:
On September 2nd 2014 I received the GUARANTEED ESCROW/PURCHASE/SALE AGREEMENT #555555 and was informed that there were no fee obligations to the seller and we would be closing soon. “Once we have both the signed and executed contract along with all the documentation above, I will be able to provide you with an estimated closing date, usually between 30 to 45 days thereafter.” This obligation was met.
- On September the 17th Ronald Miller wrote “I would like to inform you that your closing has been scheduled for October 23, 2014.”
- On September 23rd I was informed that I now had to pay Transfer Fees of $ 567.00 U.S. and Administration Fees of $900.00 U.S. On 10/12/14 these fees were paid.
- On October 21st I was told I now needed to register as a Foreign Investor for a fee of $1,160.00 U.S. On 10/23/14 these fees were paid.
- On October 27th I was again misinformed, “They have given us a Revised Closing of November 4, 2014.”
- On October 31st I was told that I now needed to pay 16% Mexican IVA Tax for $ 2,320.00 U.S. On 11/7/14 these fees were paid.
- On November 13th I was then told I must pay 11% State Tax for $ 1,595.00 U.S. On 11/24/14 these fees were paid.
- On December 3rd I was again misrepresented about the contract and I was told “I had previously been informed Closing would be taking place 5 to 7 days business days after Receipt of this document.”
- On December 4th I was told I must pay a 7% City Tax for $ 1,015.04 U.S. and Erasure of the Records fees for 1,480.00 U.S. On 12/5/14 these fees were paid.
- On December 9th again misrepresentation: “I have been looking into that very matter and have been informed that we are looking at 5 to 7 business days to close on this sale.”
- On December 16th I was told that I must pay Removal of Liens for $ 1,230.77 U.S. and Transfer of Ownership for $ 1,461.54 U.S. On 12/19/14 these fees were paid
- On January 7th I was now told now I must pay 29% Capital Gains for $ 2,560.70 U.S.
At this point I started doing some more investigating.
IF you would like more information I have all the emails and documents.
Attached is the letter I sent them to terminate the contract.
I have filed complaints with the IC3, The State Attorney Generals Office, My Local Police and The [local] Division of the FBI. No one seems to be able to help.
Mr. D. understands that he has been well and truly screwed and he’s sick about it, as I’m sure you can understand. It’s not much consolation that he is far from being alone as a victim of those con artists. He did the right thing by reporting it, though it probably doesn’t seem like it, because the only chance any of these victims have is that enough money has been lost by enough people that government entities will investigate and quietly put together a case (or several cases) against the people involved.
These things always take a long time, so just because there seems to be nothing going on doesn’t necessarily mean investigations aren’t under way. I don’t mean to offer false hope, but the possibility does exist that some of the thieves might at least see some jail time even if you never see any of your money again. They took down Keith Kosco, Julie Duffield, Brendan Hawkins, Michael Kelly and a few others (though their scams were of different types); they might also get the crooks who stole from you.
While there’s life, there’s hope.
As a quick aside, I was recently asked if I’d heard anything more about the whereabouts of Frank and/or Matthew Devellano and what they might be doing nowadays. The answer is “No”, and frankly I hadn’t given them much thought in quite a while. I idly gave them a quick google, though, and came up with a decision by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) filed by Daniel Chavez/Grupo Vidanta against Matthew Devellano, which Chavez won. I’ve mentioned this before, but the down and dirty of it is that Matthew registered a domain name using the word “vida” and Chavez objected to it strenuously (with the help of Holland & Knight) as being an infringement on his trademarks, among other things.
What was Matthew doing with that domain name? Check out WIPO’s conclusion (emphasis provided by me):
The Panel finds that the conclusion it has reached under “rights or legitimate interests” above are also indicative of bad faith on the part of the Respondent.
Moreover, this Panel considers the fact that Respondent [Devellano], either by itself of through its client – as Respondent argued in his first response to the Center – is sending emails to Complainant’s [Chavez's] clients using the an email address @vivagroupresorts.com [sic], the Domain Name, asking for payments, offering discounts for early payments and even contacting customers by phone to discuss payments is a grave case of fraud and evidence bad faith. This Panel further investigated Complainant’s fraud claim, and found that “Trubaesc Mexico, S.A. de C.V.”, one of the companies whose bank information is forwarded to Complainant’s customers via the @vivagroupresorts.com [sic] email address, for customers to deposit certain amounts of money (along with “Global Consulting B1791, S.A. de C.V.”), has been involved in this timeshare fraud before, as seen on the website “www.justanswer.com/law/63wkc-contacted-resort-development-consultants-purchase.html”.
The Panel finds that, by Respondent’s use of the Domain Name, Respondent is intentionally attempting to attract Internet users who intend to access a website operated or endorsed by Complainant to Respondent’s pay-per-click website and that the Respondent must have had the Complainant in mind when registering the Domain Name. Further, Respondent is taking unfair advantage of Complainant’s goodwill by diverting those Internet users to websites including those operated by the Complainant’s competitors.
The Panel therefore concludes accordingly that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
(Note the typos above: vidagroup was mis-typed vivagroup.)
So what ARE the Devellanos up to these days? Keeping a low profile, for one thing. As for anything else your guess is as good as mine, but if past is prologue…
More information on what you can do if you’ve been scammed follows below the squiggle.
CLICK HERE for more!