I just want to say that I hope all of you affected by Hurricane Sandy are safe and sound, that you are not among the unfortunate souls who have lost their homes and possessions to the storm and that the resorts you work for have also survived intact so that your livelihood is not affected. God speed; my thoughts are with you.
Having said that, get out the popcorn, this one is kind of long.
DAYTONA BEACH: In the good news category, Global Connections has recently completed the total renovation and installation of furnishings for the top two floors of the lovely Sea Shells Beach Club, located directly on Daytona Beach. The 37-unit boutique oceanfront resort is owned and managed by GCI. In total, the resort features one, two, and three-bedroom units as well as studios.
Renovation included total new furnishings, carpeting, fixtures, lighting, and accessories as well as new granite countertops and tile flooring in all kitchens, flat-screen TVs in living rooms and bedrooms for 14 one- and two-bedroom oceanfront and ocean view units. Additionally, the front lobby and reception area were refreshed with all new furnishings. The beachfront Honeymoon Suite got a makeover, too.
The interiors feature a South Beachy vibe, with “cool, breezy turquoise and cream hues and rich warm colors in the tile and wood furnishings.”
From the pictures I’ve seen, it looks GOOD!
NEW SMYRNA BEACH: Remember Harold Blue? A warrant was issued for his arrest early last month by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Daytona Beach Field Office, who wanted to arrest him on felony charges of organized scheme to defraud. According to the FDLE, Blue allegedly defrauded multiple victims through a timeshare resale scheme.
Well, the long arm of the law finally caught up with Blue on Oct. 26. He was arrested without incident in New Smyrna Beach and now faces charges of organized scheme to defraud, violation of probation reference possession of cocaine and driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Blue allegedly targeted timeshare owners while employed by his previous employer, Marketing Direct Timeshare Services, LLC (timesharehelpinghand.com), in Ormond Beach, Fla. and then through his own company, Blue Chip Marketing.
Have you noticed over the last couple of years how strongly Florida has gone after timeshare resale fraudsters? You’d think by now that all but the stupidest among them would be long gone, wouldn’t you?
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DOVER: I wonder if Sell My Timeshare NOW is experiencing any fallout from the scandalous ripoffs being perpetrated by an Atlanta, GA-based sound-alike company named Sell A Timeshare NOW?
The sound-alike company has complaints all over the Internet and even managed to make it into a police report in Flourtown, PA:
A Flourtown resident reported Oct. 19 he had been working with Sell a Timeshare Now LLC to sell his timeshare in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and had deposited a $3,748.50 check into the company’s account Sept. 21 to cover closing costs, police said. The man said he has not been able to reach anyone at the company since the check cleared, police said.
Sell A Timeshare NOW claims to be “nationally accredited by the Chamber of Commerce, Dun and Bradstreet, as well as we are a fully licensed marketing firm in the State of Georgia with zero complaints.” Okey dokey. If they say so.
They are not accredited with the local BBB (nothing necessarily wrong with that), but nevertheless have managed to get an “F” rating.
It seems that a pretty good case could be made that the company may have purposely chosen its name to confuse potential clients and/or to feed off Sell My Timeshare NOW’s reputation and mighty presence in the resale world. At any rate, Jason Tremblay is a pretty akamai guy; I’ll bet he’s on top of it.
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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP: Last week I mentioned the upcoming trial of Adam and Ashley LaCerda, co-owners of VO Financial Corp., on various fraud charges related to their previous company VO Group. Since that post I’ve come across some interesting stuff about VO Financial that kind of makes me tip my hat to them for their ingenuity even as it raises my eyebrows.
I’m thinking VO Financial has a heck of an SEO team (that means “Search Engine Optimization”, for the uninitiated among you) dealing with reputation management.
First off, the company issues a fairly continuous stream of press releases so that when you google the name you are met primarily with their own websites and paeons of praise for their alleged fight against timeshare fraud and corruption, along with the wonderful services they offer consumers.
If you google “vo financial complaints”, you’ll discover that they have registered that phrase as a domain name and built a website for it which, you guessed it, points out their fight against timeshare fraud and corruption along with the wonderful services they offer.
And if you do click on a link to what you would expect to be actual complaints against the company in RipoffReport you’ll find the most amazing thing: They have bought off Ripoff Report.
OK, maybe that’s a little harsh. It’s all legit and everything. As it turns out, if you can convince Ripoff Report that your company is clean and good and committed to doing the right thing for your customers and you “Agree to and abide by Ripoff Report’s Customer Satisfaction Code of Conduct”, you can pay to become a member of their Corporate Advocacy Program and all you’ll ever see about your company is positive stuff.
As Ripoff Report puts it, “The Corporate Advocacy Program is a PR/Advertising/Customer Retention & Remediation Service all in one. As a member, you’ll not only enjoy a better image, you’ll also develop superior relationships with customers and build the best possible customer satisfaction program, proven to be a major factor contributing to long-term success.”
Fees for enrolling in the program are based upon the number of Reports filed and in some cases, the number of physical locations a company has. Additionally, there is a flat set-up fee to offset the costs associated with programming and contract legalities.
VO Financial convinced Ripoff Report of its righteousness, paid its fees and is now a Verified Safe Business™. They, and other companies that are approved, get to use Ripoff Report’s Verified Safe Business logo (see the logo at left) and everything.
Per Ripoff Report: “VO Financial Corporation’s co-owners, Adam and Ashley Lacerda, have informed us that their mission is to educate and empower today’s timeshare owners by delivering quality, trustworthy customer care and service before, during, and after their services are completed.”
On the plus side, some unhappy customers get their issues resolved through that program and that’s a GOOD thing. On the negative side, well, you can figure out the cascade of implications all by your lonesome, right?
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CONWAY: Sometimes it’s best to keep your big mouth shut so as to not draw unwanted attention to yourself, ya know?
I refer to a lawsuit filed in 2007 against a subsidiary of Central Florida Investments (Parker et al vs CFI Sales & Marketing, Ltd.) in which about 300 sales reps working for Westgate Resorts sued the company in South Carolina for unpaid reserve funds.
In January 2010 a settlement was reached between the parties in which CFI agreed to pay $650,000 in past-due commissions to the workers within 180 days. Payments of $25,000 were made in February and March, but CFI missed a July 14, 2010 deadline to pay the balance. The sales reps went back to court and in August, 2010 a Horry County, SC judge gave them the right to go after Westgate Resorts founder David Siegel, other company executives and related corporations in an attempt to collect the past-due pay.
Among other excuses posited by attorneys for the company’s failure to pay: CFI didn’t have the money. Well, it was 2010 and CFI/Westgate was in a world of financial hurt so that may have been true. (As an aside, that same August the U.S. Department of Labor recovered $868,443 in back wages for 1,065 employees of CFI when it was determined that Westgate OPCs were not paid at least the federal minimum wage for all the hours they worked, among other infringements of the law. August 2010 was not a good month for CFI/Westgate…)
And get this: Richard Epstein, a CFI attorney, said that the company never actually promised to pay the money. He said “All CFI has promised to do is to allow a judgment to be entered against them. There has never been a promise to pay. We have a final judgment. This case is over.”
The case subsequently languished in court with little action.
Fast forward to now. If you’ve been paying attention you know that David Siegel has been bragging about how his personal finances are great (he has enough to retire to a Caribbean island and live out his life in comfort, provide for his children, resume work on his unfinished mansion, etc.) and his company is more profitable than ever.
Gene Connell, a Surfside Beach lawyer who represents the aforementioned workers, took note of Siegel’s boasts and filed papers in court last month asking Judge Michael Baxley to force Siegel to appear in a South Carolina court and answer questions about his company’s finances and the settlement agreement. Connell said Siegel’s recent public statements indicate he has plenty of money to pay the settlement.
CFI lawyer John Wilkerson III disagrees, saying in court documents, “Whether David Siegel, against whom no judgment has been entered in this case, has the ability to pay the amount of the judgment is legally irrelevant. No court – whether this one or any other – has ever found Mr. Siegel to be liable for this debt.”
Wilkerson said that Siegel’s money is irrelevant because CFI is the company that hired workers to sell the Myrtle Beach resort. “[CFI] has not paid the judgment for the simplest and most understandable of reasons: It does not have the money to do so.”
Connell, on the other hand, holds that Westgate should be “held in contempt for its failure to pay a judgment owed to its employees for back wages.” The judge has taken that issue under advisement.
Meanwhile, a trial to determine whether Siegel can be held personally liable for the debt is tentatively scheduled for early February at the Horry County Government and Justice Center in Conway.
Back in August 2010 one of the sales reps involved in the suit had this to say: “I did what they asked me to do, and they owe me $80,000, and I want it.”
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“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” -Alice Roosevelt Longworth
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