Grab the beverage of your choice and settle in. This is a looong one.
CLEARWATER BEACH: Does anyone remember in 2008 when the Spyglass Motel was destroyed in epic fashion as TV illusionist Criss Angel escaped from the imploding building? That was part of a huge proposed redevelopment plan proposed for the corner of Gulfview Boulevard and Coronado Drive that contained the Spyglass Motel, a Days Inn, the Beach Towers Motel and Golden Beach Motel.
In place of those buildings Kiran Patel planned a luxury resort which called for a 200-unit timeshare resort and a 250-room Westin Hotel.
But we all know what happened to the economy and the timeshare industry that year, so scratch those plans. The site has since stood as what Patel calls a $53 million parking lot.
Patel has come back with new plans and now wants to build a 300-room Renaissance Resort and a 150-unit Residence Inn, both of which are (of course) Marriott brands.
I don’t care. I’ve lost all interest in it now that timeshare isn’t included.
LABELLE: According to a recent post in SWFlorida.blogspot.com the folks from the timeshare transfer company Timeshare Relief are at it again, only this time they’re using the Transfer Smart name. There’s nothing new in this except that they’re working the Southwest Florida area now.
Timeshare Relief, its several incarnations and its founders have hit the pages of Inside the Gate and The GateHouse several times during the last couple of years. They even won a couple of Dead Skunk Awards in our old Road Kill Cafe column.
Here’s part of what SWFlorida.blogspot.com had to say about them:
Mailings are going out by the thousands to mailboxes around the area from a company called Transfer Smart of Torrence , California making an offer that sounds like they will purchase vacation timeshare condo units from owners.
The letter signed by Cindy MacMillan, founder of Transfer Smart claims she will “get you out of your Timeshare Forever!”
Not said it (sic) that you will be charged thousands of dollars for “transfer fees” to give away your time share apartment or condo to the company.
Not said also is that only certain properties will be eligible and there must be no payments due, including maintenance fees or taxes on the unit.
Well, you can read the rest of it here. And you can see more about Inside the Gate’s opinion about the MacMillans and their various companies here and here. Plus this notice from the Vermont AG’s office. Dead skunk in the middle of the road stinking to high Heaven? Make your own judgement…
ORLANDO: David Siegel is apparently feeling a bit betrayed about “Queen of Versailles”, the documentary about him, his wife and their massive mansion. He and his company Westgate Resorts have filed a lawsuit against Sundance Institute and the film’s creators for defamation. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the suit.
The film is scheduled for opening day at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT on January 19.
Siegel’s complaint seems to be more about the promotional materials used to engender interest in the film than about the documentary itself. The complaint says a Sundance press release called the documentary a “rags-to-riches-to-rags story”, claiming Siegel’s timeshare empire collapsed and that his house was foreclosed.
“Taken individually and collectively, these statements portray Siegel and Westgate as essentially broke and out of business,” the suit claims.
In fact, none of those claims are correct. Though Westgate was hit very hard by the same 2008 economic collapse that caused financing to dry up for all timeshare companies in the USA, and Westgate was forced to take drastic steps to survive, the company has managed to weather the storm, restructured its debt and is now both stable and profitable.
And although Siegel did place the unfinished mansion, along with other assets, on the market in the early part of the economic collapse, he still owns it and it is not in foreclosure.
The complaint says that “Queen of Versailles” director Lauren Greenfield and her husband, executive producer Frank Evers knew that. Greenfield filmed the construction of the mansion over the course of four years, during which time Siegel provided Greenfield and her crew with 165 room nights at his resorts, and accommodated them at his home as well.
The suit says the last time Greenfield and her crew visited him, in November 2011, Siegel told her “he was doing well, that he had successfully resolved his financial issues and that Westgate remained highly profitable. This fact should have been obvious to her based upon the festive mood in Siegel’s home and the fact that she was once again provided with free accommodations.”
Siegel contacted Greenfield about the allegedly erroneous promotional materials, the suit says. She and Evers agreed with him that the description “was false, and that they would be taking all necessary steps to correct it.”
Finally, more than a month after having been notified about the inaccuracies, the description was eventually changed to read:
Jackie and David were triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America— a sprawling 90,000-square-foot palace inspired by Versailles— when their timeshare empire falters due to the economic crisis. Their rags-to-riches-to-rags story reveals the innate virtues and flaws of the “American Dream”.
But by that point the original description had already appeared on more than 12,000 websites, including (most glaringly) Greenfield’s. And as you can see, the revised description still included the phrase “rags-to-riches-to-rags story.”
Siegel claims that this has harmed his reputation and that since his name and Westgate Resorts are so intertwined that it also harms his business. The suit alleges that it has exposed Siegel and Westgate to distrust and ridicule and that they have suffered a loss of customers and diminished profits as a result.
The suit states “Sundance’s, Greenfield’s and Evers’ continued campaign and proliferation of false and defamatory statements regarding Siegel and Westgate is motivated by ill will and malice, and at the very least with a reckless disregard for the truth.”
They are asking for compensatory, incidental and consequential damages in excess of $75,000; punitive damages; Court costs; and any other relief the Court deems just and proper.
HENDERSONVILLE: Hendersonville resident Alton S. Minton has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge that could see him serving more than two years in prison.
In 2004 Minton and two partners set up YachtOne Holdings LLC, a company that would allow investors to have a fractional ownership in yachts. But, unknown to his partners, Minton set out to defraud not only potential investors but the partners themselves.
According to records, Minton’s principal role in the venture “was to market the company and to obtain clients to purchase fractional-ownership interests in the yacht.” Instead he represented himself to investors not as an employee of the legitimate YachtOne Holdings but entities called YachtOne Inc. and YachtOne, neither of which companies existed.
In the plea agreement Minton admitted to bilking 27 investors out of nearly $900,000 by soliciting investments in YachtOne. No fractional ownership shares were actually sold, though, and Minton used “the majority of those funds for his and others’ benefit, including for living expenses, past personal debts and other purposes.”
He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 20.
This is not Minton’s first or only scam. In 2002 Minton founded FractionAir, a company that sold fractional ownership shares in private jets. Just two years later, in 2004, he was forced to relinquish control of the company when it was discovered he was selling shares in planes the company did not own. He was ousted by William P. Danielczyk, chairman of the Galen Capital Group, the controlling interest in the venture.
High-profile investors in FractionAir included former Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and former Vice President Al Gore.
In December 2011 he was indicted by a Sumner County grand jury on seven charges related to several allegedly fraudulent business ventures.
In a news release the Better Business Bureau of Nashville warned Rutherford County business from investing in one of his latest ventures. The BBB called Minton “a scammer who has a long history of deceptive business practices, shady offers, misleading marketing schemes and fraudulent investment scams”.
The plea deal has apparently worked out well for Minton because if he were convicted on the original federal mail fraud charge, he could have faced up to 20 years in prison rather than the two or so he will likely receive.
Do you have tips or rumors you'd like to share ANONYMOUSLY? Something you'd like us to investigate or follow up on? Help fill up the Tips Jar so we can share it with the whole Timeshare World! CONTACT: email@example.com