David CortijoBenchmark Hospitality International,, a leading US-based hospitality management company, has named David Cortijo director of rooms for Marenas Resort, located in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, north of Miami. Marenas Resort is part of Benchmark Hospitality’s collection of Personal Luxury Resorts & HotelsSM. Jim Franklin, general manager, made the announcement. Previously David Cortijo served as resort manager for Daily Management, Inc. (a Berkley Group-associated property management company), responsible for two resorts and 1000 timeshare units in Weston, Florida.

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RCI has affiliated three new resorts located in the popular tourist destinations of Rajasthan and Panchgani in India. With these additions, RCI expands its Indian portfolio to more than 100 affiliated properties.

New to RCI:

  • Ananta Spa & Resorts, a sprawling nine-acre spa resort located amidst the historical landscape of Pushkar in Rajasthan. Each villa has a spacious living room on the ground floor that opens onto lush manicured greens with an attached open-to-sky bathroom surrounded by waterfalls.
  • The Aranyawas Resort, located in Ranakpur, Rajasthan, home to the renowned Jain marble temple. The cottages and rooms have views of the valley and river. The interiors, while painted in rustic colors, are modern and include walk-in dressing rooms.
  • The Summer Plaza Resort, located in Maharashtra amongst the Panchgani hills. It spans five acres of luscious green fauna and is located adjacent to the Saputara Lake. Amenities include a temperature controlled swimming pool, movie theatre, hi-tech gym, discotheque, jacuzzi and spa.

Interval International has affiliated Port Chambly Vacation Club, located on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean off the south eastern coast of Africa. Port Chambly’s 44 fractional ownership residences are part of a multi-use resort village that includes a boutique hotel and Mediterranean-style town square.

The resort is tucked into a century-old coconut plantation on the Tombeau River and is much like a little Venice, where residents and guests get around in small boats or via the shuttle service. It is Interval International’s first affiliated shared ownership resort in Mauritius.

cheerleaderRCI and Interval International: getting BIGGER!

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New Rules: May 26, 2012

Bart Simpson Rules
NEW RULE:

People who are facing trial on multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, all related to timeshare, cannot set up a new business under a new name that purports to do the same things as the old business that got them in trouble in the first place.

And they cannot send out a plethora of glowing press releases about the new company saying they’ve been in business for years when in fact it was the other company that can make that claim.

And they cannot change the old company names to the new company names on the CEO’s Linkedin page as though the other company had never existed.

VO Group's website Screen Capture 5-17-12And they cannot take down the original website with a notice that a system upgrade is underway unless it really is. (Is it?) And they cannot put the new company name in the tab at the top of the browser, when the old company’s name is still in the address bar.

When the principals involved are found not guilty on all charges, then they can do all those things and hear no complaint from me.

The new company’s press says they are “the first ever timeshare consulting firm committed to helping victims of timeshare fraud with honesty, integrity, and respect.”
WTF
But until they reveal to potential customers the current legal situation of the company’s principals, I reserve the right to raise my hand and say WTF!.




If you have a NEW RULE you'd like to share, do NOT put it in the "comments" where it might get lost without everyone noticing your genius. Instead, send it to the Gatekeeper for possible inclusion front and center. Get the appreciation and chuckles you so richly deserve!!!

This may mean good news for a lot of you schleps. According to auto club AAA, about 30.7 million people will drive more than 50 miles for Memorial Day trips. That’s 400,000 more than last year, a jump AAA attributes to improvement in the economy and consumer attitudes. The number of holiday travelers grows to 34.8 million when you include planes, trains and other means of transportation.

Especially for those of you working in fly-to destinations, the main bonus may be that travelers with median household incomes of $100,000 or more will travel more and further while travel among families in the $50 to $100,000 income bracket is expected to slip this year. That means, of course, that your tours are more likely than not to actually be Q’s.

AAA says it doesn’t expect a significant pick up in travel until employment, incomes and consumer spending show greater gains and the housing market turns around. It sees signs of that happening next year. For now, travel remains well below the pre-recession peak of 2005, when 44 million people traveled for Memorial Day weekend.

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Keith W. Trowbridge, Ph.D., President of Executive Quest, Inc. (an executive search firm for the timeshare/ vacation ownership/ fractional industry), has announced the results of Executive Quest’s annual salary survey. “The industry is looking up as far as the economy is concerned as reflected in the survey responses,” said Trowbridge. And what a tease that is because that’s ALL he’s revealing in the press release.

The salary figures for the 2012 study originated from the 20,000+ contacts maintained by Executive Quest through its newsletter subscriptions. A full copy of the salary study may be purchased at http://www.execq.com/salarystudy.htm. (It’s only $129.)

The survey’s 24 categories consist of Sales, Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, Resort/General Managers, CEO’s, CFO’s, etc., and include Minimum, Maximum, Mean figures for each category of compensation – Salary, Commission, Bonus, Non-Cash Perks and Total Annual Compensation. The same holds true for the other columns of Years in the Industry, Resort Locations, Units and Total Annual Company Revenue. The survey includes only the Total Annual Compensation for each category.

Many executives received non-cash perks including a company automobile, health and life insurance, contributions to a 401(k), housing for family/visitors. Relocation expenses and housing for an initial period are also a part of the non-cash perks enjoyed by many. The non-cash perks were converted to a dollar amount and are included in the Total Compensation figures.

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Standard & Poors has announced it is monitoring the potential impact of a $65 million assessment fee on the performance of two rated Diamond Resorts Owner Trust transactions, series 2009-1 and 2011-1.

The issue at hand: The Homeowner’s Association Board of a Diamond Resorts property in Hawaii imposed the fee on timeshare owners to cover water intrusion damages to the property. As a result, timeshare owners have filed a class action suit against the company, its CEO, and certain members of the Homeowner’s Association Board.

S&P is considering whether the water intrusion assessment fees may affect performance of the loans that serve as collateral in timeshare securitizations, due to a variety of matters surrounding the issue.

Read the whole statement at S&P releases statement on Diamond Resorts Owner Trust transactions

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The True Meaning of Memorial Day

Here we are at the official kick off to the summer season in the USA. For most of us it means a long weekend, barbecues in the back yard, a camping excursion, picnics in the park, a trip to Vegas, etc.— and maybe attendance at a memorial concert/service put on by a city or national service, with music, speeches and flags.

But for too many families and individuals it means the remembrance of sacrifices shared by too few of us in this era of two unpopular wars, and the memories of veterans from other wars that have nearly been forgotten by a younger generation. They all deserve our respect and gratitude, and our help in whatever ways they need. Honor our service members and their families in deeds this weekend, not just in pretty words. Here is one way you can do it: Wounded Warrior Project.

Since 2001, there have been 1980 American troops killed in Afghanistan. Since January 1, 2012 there have been 116 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan. Please take a moment to honor their sacrifice.

All gave some. Some gave all. Lest we forget…

Send in your own playlist and if I can find a good version on YouTube I’ll post it for you! What would you like to hear?

Email: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Eastern USA: May 26, 2012

FLORIDA:

ORLANDO: What’s wrong with this picture? David Siegel, “Mr. Republican”, who has boasted more than once about his prowess at helping elect Republican Presidents and other Republican politicians, is holding a fundraiser for— gasp!— a DEMOCRAT! I thought I’d swoon when I heard the news.

Siegel and Westgate Resorts are sponsoring $250-a-pop fundraiser next month for Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. Max King Realty is providing the venue: Heaven Event Center, 8240 Exchange Dr., in Orlando. It’ll be on June 24, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Deming is running for his second term, facing opposition from John Tegg, a Republican and the former Belle Isle police chief whom Demings beat in 2008, as well as Mike Greene, a Democrat who lives New York.

Of course this is a local deal, and maybe Siegel’s backed Democrats at lower-than-national levels in the past, but… a DEMOCRAT? eek

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WEST PALM BEACH: Another one bites the dust! Michael Ferrari, 27, of West Palm Beach, has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Ferrari’s sentencing is scheduled for July 30, 2012.

According to the criminal information and plea documents filed with the court, Ferrari and his co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to defraud timeshare owners throughout the United States and Canada. From July 2009 through February 2010, telemarketers contacted more than 2,000 victims and collected more than $3.3 million in advance fees for timeshare marketing and sales services, which were never provided. The telemarketers, operating under the name International Resort Solutions LLC (IRS), solicited clients through at least six boiler rooms, each of which was located in Palm Beach County. The telemarketers would make false and misleading representations to the timeshare owners regarding IRS’s services. Among the false representations, the telemarketers claimed that IRS had buyers for their timeshares, that IRS had closing scheduled for their timeshares, and that IRS would actively market their timeshares to potential buyers.

Ferrari was a manager of one of the IRS boiler rooms and responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the boiler room and supervising the telemarketers. Earlier this month, six other IRS boiler room managers, Jeffrey Fields, Thomas Ford, Bryan Bergeron, Joshua Holmes, Colin Van Nest Talmage, and Joseph Eichenlaub, also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with this case. All of these defendants are facing a maximum term of imprisonment of up to 20 years, followed by up to three years of supervised release.

That’s a long time in prison for a short time run. Was it worth it?

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MASSACHUSETTS:

HANCOCK: Did you all catch the comment inthepittoolong left in last week’s Eastern News about the Berkley Group? If not, here it is:

Berkley recently shuttered their marketing and sales operation at the Vacation Village Berkshires across the street from Jiminy Peak in Hancock, MA.

They cited out of control tour generation costs, but who really knows?

Reps and managers are waiting the contractual several months for outstanding commissions.

Out of control tour generation costs? Gee, who could’ve seen that coming in this industry? roll eyes Assuming, of course, that’s the real reason behind the closure.

How many sales/marketing and other employees did that closure affect?

Good luck getting your outstanding commissions, guys and gals, and finding a new gig. Fingers crossed and all that.

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NEW JERSEY:

CAMDEN: Just a short follow-up to last week’s post about arraignments in the case against the principals and staff from the VO Group (now doing business as VO Financial Corp.) Adam Lacerda was arraigned in federal court on May 21. He pleaded not guilty to charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering related to his alleged role in a timeshare mortgage fraud scheme that saw at least 225 people, many of whom were elderly, defrauded of $2.6 million.

A jury trial is scheduled for July 9 at the federal court in Camden, N.J. I don’t know if he and his wife Ashley Lacerda will be tried at the same time (along with four others arraigned in the same case) or if they will have separate trials.

Ten others arrested in the case have yet to be arraigned. I wonder if law enforcement is trying to turn any of those folks in a quid pro quo of something like immunity in return for their testimony? Ya think? Stay tuned.




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Western USA: May 26, 2012

COLORADO:

DENVER: Inspirato, a luxury destination club formed just 16 months ago, seems to be going strong. The club has already surpassed 10,000 nights in member stays, has been named one of America’s Most Promising Companies by Forbes magazine, boasts nearly 2,000 members and will have at least 300 different travel options for members in 2012.

Inspirato was created by the founders of Exclusive Resorts. Members pay a one-time membership fee of $15,000 and an annual renewal fee of $2,500. Members can book any home in the Inspirato portfolio as often as they like, even during peak times, and only pay for the nights they use.

Looking good so far…

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NEVADA:

LAS VEGAS: As you may have already read in Diamond Resorts International’s press release in Inside the Gate, DRI’s purchase of “a substantial portion of the assets” of Pacific Monarch Resorts is a done deal. So DRI is now nine resorts and approximately 75,000 owners BIGGER. The nine resorts are:

  • Cabo Azul Resort in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
  • Cancun Resort in Las Vegas, NV
  • Cedar Breaks Lodge & Spa in Brian Head, UT
  • Desert Isle of Palm Springs in Palm Springs, CA
  • Palm Canyon Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, CA
  • Riviera Beach & Spa Resort in Capistrano Beach, CA
  • Riviera Oaks Resort & Racquet Club in Ramona, CA
  • Riviera Shores Resort in Capistrano Beach, CA
  • Tahoe Seasons Resort in South Lake Tahoe, CA

To my mind, the two biggies in that list are the Cabo Azul and the Cancun Resort.

I hear the new resorts will soon be available for members of DRI to book, with availability starting in 2013. Most certainly DRI will be making upgrades to the properties to bring them up to DRI’s standards.

Naturally not everyone is happy about it, particularly some who work(ed) at PMR. One GateHouse reader mourned:

After a promise to keep sales management the previously employed by Wyndam retread of a gm announced the true plan. Off with monarch gm heads and on with a carnival barker ( known as a carnie) district manager. Never running a successful off site store which (already decided) of the three southern Callie stores will close it’s doors first?

Wait till the monarch managers get a look at what Diamond doesn’t pay them.

Oh well, hauling tours is where we all started at so let’s see who can still take one “cradle to grave”. RIP Monarch. You will be missed and so will your lucrative managers bonuses.

I assume the reader is referring to Tom Carney, former regional with Trendwest, who was chosen to be the leader over all three of the off sites in California. Anyway, my understanding is that the GMs at PMR’s Showcases will be re-titled as Directors of Sales and retained at their respective sites while keeping their current responsibilities— at least for the initial period following the closing. But it’s very likely that DRI will make some changes to their comp plan that will not make those people happy. And of course other changes could (probably will) occur down the road.

“Oh well, hauling tours is where we all started at so let’s see who can still take one ‘cradle to grave’,” said our unhappy reader. I like that kind of attitude. thumb up

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OREGON:

BEND: This might excite those of you connected to the fractional/residence club part of the industry. Pronghorn Golf Club & Resort, a luxury development that was purchased by The Resort Group in February, has changed management. The fabulous Auberge Resorts is assuming management of Pronghorn and everyone seems to be pretty excited about that.

Situated on 640 acres in Central Oregon, Pronghorn Golf Club & Resort features a 48-suite luxury lodge, which opened to the public in 2010, two championship golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio and managed by Troon Golf, full-service spa, multiple restaurants and a variety of real estate options, including custom homes, condos, a residence club and home sites.

Future plans call for improved homeowner, member and guest amenities, additional resort development, a variety of additional real estate offerings, and more. I wonder what kinds of additional real estate offerings they’re talking about?

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CARIBBEAN:


BONAIRE:
It might be a good year to visit Bonaire, if you’ve never been there. Or even if you have. Divi Flamingo Beach Resort is celebrating the property’s 60th anniversary throughout 2012 with a calendar of monthly events and specials. The celebration includes a number of dive packages and other festivities, a one week master digital underwater photography class, one night free packages, free room upgrades and free dives. Dive packages start at $844 per person double occupancy for a seven-night stay with 11 boat dives, unlimited shore diving, daily breakfast, airport transfers and all taxes and gratuities included.

Happy birthday to the Divi Flamingo Beach!

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FINLAND:


HELSINKI:
Holiday Club Resorts, Europe’s foremost recreational and leisure organization, has joined forces with Grupo Lopesan, the Canary Island’s most prominent developer of select holiday accommodation. On April 2, 2012, a Heads of Agreement was signed between the two parties for the development of a plot of land adjacent to Villa del Conde on the Costa de Meloneras, one of the most exclusive locations in Gran Canaria.

The project will consist of the construction of high-end timeshare accommodation, consisting of 1-bed, 2-bed and 3-bed villas. The aim is to start construction before the end of 2012. The new acquisition will enhance Holiday Club’s existing resort portfolio considerably and is also a positive step forward in Grupo Lopesan’s international growth strategy.

The Joint Venture will comprise of Grupo Lopesan holding a majority in shares for the Resort Management business, and Holiday Club holding a majority in shares for the Sales and Marketing of the project.

If you aren’t familiar with them, here’s the skinny on Holiday Club Resorts Oy: Founded in 1986, the owners of the company are the Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company (the largest pension fund- and insurance company in Finland), the Finnish Industry Investment Ltd (Finnish state-owned investment company) and a group of Finnish private investors and senior management. Holiday Club owns 32 resorts and numerous cottages and villas. Seven of the resorts have extensive spa facilities. Eight resorts are located outside of Finland in Sweden, on the Costa del Sol in Spain and in the Canary Islands. In the fiscal year 2010-2011 (October-September), the Group generated revenues of 93.4 million€ and employed 588 employees

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THAILAND:


PATONG:
In August, 2010 Michael Anthony Matos decided he didn’t want to face charges in California for cocaine possession and sexual assault, so he took a powder. To Thailand, where he arrived August 28, 2010. He found a job in Patong working with an unnamed timeshare company, and has been living there ever since. Well, until recently anyway.

His arrest came on May 18, 2012 after California Police, who had put him on a wanted list after he failed to appear for court hearings for the alleged offences, tracked him down through a cellphone he had used to call relatives in the US.

Phuket Police, alerted by their California colleagues, arrested Matos at a residence on Nanai Rd. in Patong. Oops. He never renewed his 3-month visitor visa, either, so he was charged with overstaying his visa and work permits and had to pay a fine.

Then he was handed over to American officials who flew him to Bangkok for deportation to California.

So I guess this means additional charges have been added in California to the original charges from which he fled. And let that be a lesson to you about the power of the digital age. You can run, but your cellphone will always snitch on you.

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UNITED KINGDOM:


ENGLAND:
According to RCI Ventures, The UK’s Travel Channel is airing a TV series “helping today’s consumer to get to grips with timeshare ownership.”

RCI Ventures says the nine-part guide starts with an introduction to Harry Taylor, chief executive of the TATOC timeshare association, and an overview of timeshare. Successive shows will cover a range of topics associated with vacation ownership to illuminate prospective consumers into the fastest growing segment of the hospitality industry.

The Paradise Kings Club in Paphos, Cyprus was the first resort to feature on the series as it aired on the digital TV channel.

You can watch catch a video at RCI Ventures.

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Tip JarDo 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: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Join us for a pithy morning meeting timeshare sales tip of the week, originally published in InsideTheGate.com, to help you to greater success in selling timeshare. Brief and to the point, these sales training tips are designed to get you thinking, to expand your knowledge, to help you to become all that you can be in the timeshare sales arena.

Whether you’re an industry veteran or a green pea, it never hurts to brush up on your skills! Today’s tip:

1/2:

REMEMBER: An unknown author writes: “The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that an optimist thinks this is the best possible world. A pessimist fears that this is true.”

Al Neuharth (founder of USA Today) tells us that: “The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.”

And Earl Nightingale (Motivational Speaker, author, etc.) reminds us that: “Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.”

In the business of selling dreams and a superior vacationing lifestyles it is the rep’s attitude and how each prospect perceives that rep’s posture and perspectives that will play a major role in whether a sale is to be made. Those reps who embrace the one-time U.S. Army slogan and philosophy of “Be All You Can Be” will be the reps laughing all the way to the bank.



Copyright InsideTheGate.com All rights reserved

QUOTABLE QUOTES: “Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.” – Sam Ewing



I was just thinking about the ability of true timeshare sales pros to walk up to total strangers every day in a sales room and read them on the spot. It’s a thing of beauty to watch. It must be similar to experienced cops, who hone in on suspicious behavior like a laser beam.

It isn’t just the obvious body language sales pros pick up on, either, the posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements that send unconcious signals. Those signals are easy to learn: The crossed arms; the leaning away; the nervous legs; the avoidance of eye contact; the rapid blinking that indicates deception…

It isn’t the quick recognition of lies that’s impressive, either, since most tour guests eventually tell one or more of the ten most often proffered lies/excuses that sales reps hear every single day of their working lives.

No, what impresses me most is the game of “Where is that tour from?” That’s right. Especially with fly-to destinations like Hawaii, say, or Mexico, real sales pros can look a room or restaurant or airport lounge over and give you a pretty reliable guess as to where the people call home. Ah, New York/New Jersey! That couple is from the Great Lakes area. Those two over there are from the Midwest— Iowa, Ohio, etc. Missouri, definitely Missouri! Texas. Oklahoma. Oregon. Ah, Seattle, no mistake!

And it’s even more fun when it comes to California. I can tell with reasonable certainty what part of California they’re from, and I’m not alone in that. Those folks are from Northern Cal, Sacramento area, for sures. Bay area (sometimes San Francisco specifically). LA or San Diego. Fresno/Bakersfield.

At airports you don’t even need to know where the plane came from, all you need is to see the folks deplaning and their attitude, dress, hair, etc.— it all tells you where they live.

And of course there’s also the instantaneous recognition of another timeshare schlep in almost any venue. There’s just a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them stand out… :)

Of course we all make an occasional error, but 9 times out of 10 we’re pretty spot on. So here’s my hat tip to the experienced, exceptional pros at the little round tables.

Ain’t it fun? hat tip



Tip JarDo 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: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Did you know that there are now professional mooches timeshare tour guests who are actually teaching others how to game the system for profit? That some are so sophisticated they are able not only to get a total refund for all their fly-buy expenses but, by waiting 30 days or so, will sometimes apply for and receive a second pay-out for the same fly-buy?

Read all about it in this week’s Scoop du Jour: Is it Cat and Mouse or Mouse and Cat?

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This is not directly timeshare related, but it’s both interesting and important enough that I thought you might like to know about it. At the very least you’ll learn what a “copyright troll” is.

The headline says, “Courts quash copyright trolls; recognize IP address is not a person”.

The article starts out like this:

The U.S. Supreme Court may consider corporations to be people, but three federal judges in three states have ruled that an IP address is not a person, throwing into question charges against hundreds of thousands in the U.S. accused of copyright violations, child porn, hacking and other online crimes.

It goes further to say, “An IP address is not a specific person and may not even be a particular state.”

A Florida state judge issued a similar ruling two weeks ago, confirming that an IP address is not a person. Together the two rulings potentially invalidate hundreds of thousands of convictions and undermine settlements many complain were the result of bullying, not solid evidence and effective litigation.

AND:

After a decade of the most ridiculous, abusive, indiscriminately punitive attempt to punish random Internet users for the financial disappointments of the entertainment industry, it would be a relief to have courts slam the door on abuses almost universally panned, even by other copyright owners.

I really think you should read that article. It may be more important than you think.

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In Starwood Property Trust’s first quarter 2012 financial report the company mentioned a couple of senior loans they had purchased, as follows:

  • In March: Acquired for a discounted purchase price of $115.7 million, a $125.0 million participation in a senior loan secured by all the material assets of a worldwide operator of hotels, resorts and timeshare properties. The acquisition was financed with an $81.0 million increase in a financing facility previously provided by the seller.
  • In April: The Company acquired $75.6 million of CMBS at a discounted price of $70.7 million, where the obligors are certain special purpose entities that were formed to hold substantially all of the assets of a worldwide operator of hotels, resorts and timeshare properties. The acquisition was financed using a $49.3 million increase in a financing facility previously provided by the seller.

Who do you suppose that “worldwide operator” is?

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Tip JarDo 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: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

In memory of Donna Summer, who passed away May 17 at the age of 63 after a battle with lung cancer. According to various sources, the five-time Grammy winner was working on a new album at the time of her death.

The music of Donna Summer helped to define the sound of the 70’s disco scene, as her songs were DJ staples around the globe. She was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number 1 on the US charts. She was once a backup singer for Three Dog Night who then propelled to stardom with the help of super producer Giorgio Moroder with hits such as Bad Girls and Dim All the Lights.

I choose to remember her with the big hit “She Works Hard for the Money”. RIP, Donna.

Send in your own playlist and if I can find a good version on YouTube I’ll post it for you! What would you like to hear?

Email: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

Eastern USA: May 19, 2012

FLORIDA:

FORT LAUDERDALE: BFC Financial Corp., which owns a 54% economic interest in Boca Raton-based Bluegreen Corp. and is hoping to gain complete ownership, disclosed a loss in its first quarter financial report.

BFC, which also owns a 53% economic interest in BankAtlantic Bancorp, derives most of its financial results from its portion of the profits or losses of BankAtlantic and Bluegreen. In the first quarter, BFC lost $2.7 million on revenue of $104.8 million, compared with a $2.6 million loss on revenue of $98.8 million in the same quarter a year ago.

The proposed merger with Bluegreen, announced in November, calls for BFC to exchange eight newly issued shares for each share of Bluegreen. In order to consummate the deal, BFC must be listed on a major stock exchange.

BFC will hold a special shareholder meeting on June 19 at the Westin Fort Lauderdale, where shareholders will vote on the merger and a reverse stock split, which will be needed to boost BFC’s per-share price so it could qualify for a major exchange.

It’s a tricky deal though. At the Bluegreen shareholder meeting, scheduled to start a half-hour before the BFC meeting at the same location, two-thirds of its shareholders are needed to approve the merger. BFC, Levan and Abdo control 54 percent of its votes.

BUT, a class action lawsuit on behalf of Bluegreen shareholders that is seeking to block the deal is still pending in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. The plaintiffs allege that Bluegreen shareholders would not get adequate compensation and its directors did not do enough to shop the company to other potential buyers. The companies have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

So even if the merger is approved by the shareholders, will it actually go into effect if the lawsuit has not yet been decided?

Stay tuned.

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ALSO: Is the Berkley Group being sneaky with its marketing? They say no no no, but the Boston law firm of Shapiro Haber & Urmy says yes yes yes. The firm is, in fact, preparing a potential class-action lawsuit against Berkley.

What’s it all about? Well, it seems that a new phone campaign from an outfit called “Political Opinions of America” has been annoying recipients of its robo calls. Purporting to be conducting a political opinion poll, recipients are asked a few questions about political issues and then, if they are amenable to the suggestion, are transferred to a live operator from “corporate travel services” who is giving away free cruises thanks to an “anonymous donor”. The offer allows up to four free guests and requires a $60-per-person “port fee” to be secured by a credit card. The attorneys say Caribbean Cruise Line and the Berkley Group are behind the calls.

I’ll bet you can all guess how that whole presentation goes, can’t you.

Berkley Group attorneys say it’s all copacetic, that incentives are used in some of the polling company’s survey programs to increase response rates and they’re doing nothing illegal.

Critics say it’s just another way of getting around the Do-not-call laws.

And the FTC’s opinion? FTC officials said to remember that if the purpose of the call is to sell something, it is telemarketing and all DNC rules apply. Simply adding a few questions about unrelated topics such as politics or weather does not constitute a bona fide survey. At least two similar “sham survey” ruses have resulted in enforcement actions against companies for such illegal calls.

You can get all the gory details from someone who took the bait at this link (among others): That political survey robo-call you just got? It’s a scam

I report. You decide. :)

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MASSACHUSETTS:

BOSTON: Charles R. Caliri, of Woodstock, Vt., has been found in contempt of court in relation to a lawsuit filed against him by the Massachusetts AG’s Office in July 2010. He was ordered to pay $310,000 in civil penalties and also ordered to pay into the court $430,000 to be held until a final judgment is entered in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Caliri and others engaged in an unfair and deceptive vacation club sales scheme through his former businesses Only Way 2 Go Travel of Plymouth and Fantasia Travel Group of Methuen, through which they were selling memberships in Outrigger Vacation Club. (See the April 30 Eastern USA Timeshare News for details)

State Attorney General Martha Coakley’s staff has been unsuccessfully trying to recover the victims’ money ever since.

For more information about this court action see Vacation Club Business Owner Held in Contempt

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NEW JERSEY:

CAMDEN: Here’s an update on the Adam and Ashley Lacerda/VO Group case. If you remember, they and 14 others affiliated with the VO Group were arrested April 17 on a complaint that charged them with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud relating to an alleged $2.6 million timeshare mortgage fraud scheme.

On Monday, May 14, Ashley Lacerda, Francis Santore, and Brian Corley were arraigned in Camden federal court for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, plus mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. As you can see, the number of charges against them has grown since they were arrested.

Ashley Lacerda, co-owner/founder of the VO Group with her husband Adam, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; two counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge, and mail and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit money laundering charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Adam Lacerda, Steven Cox, Alfred Giordano, and Joseph Diventi are scheduled to be arraigned on May 21. Adam Lacerda has been indicted on a total of 15 counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The remaining nine defendants are still awaiting their fate under the original charge in the complaint.

You can get much more information, including a list of who has been charged with what, at Three From VO Group Arraigned on Timeshare Mortgage Fraud Charges.




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INDIANA:

INDIANAPOLIS: Kara Kenney, a highly respected investigate journalist who was once named Indiana’s journalist of the year, has taken her investigative prowess to a vacation club sales room for an undercover exposé. In this case she secretly taped a sales presentation by SmarTravel (aka Sundance Vacations/Sunshine Vacations), which sells memberships for Travel Advantage Network (TAN).

Her Call 6 report, both in video format and a transcript, appeared on ABC-affiliate RTV6, “The INDY Channel”, Thursday May 17. It was an interesting and sometimes unintentionally comical report— such as when SmarTravel CEO David Wise said, “Our objective is not to sell a vacation, the objective is not how to figure out how to get a bigger sale. The objective is every human being leaves there feeling happy.”

He also said he would be surprised if any consumer felt misled or pressured by his salespeople.

He said it with a straight face, too. :)

While RTV6 did not find SmarTravel or similar companies breaking any laws with their sales tactics, it should be noted that Indiana’s AG is investigating a complaint against the company along with another complaint against a different travel company.

The title of the article/video is High-Pressure Tactics Often Accompany Prize Entries Read the story, click on the video, sit through the short advertisement then settle in for the exposé (about 7 minutes long). To view the video in FULL screen, hit the full screen button (it’s obscure) at the lower right hand corner of the video screen.

It speaks for itself.

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IOWA:

DES MOINES: On April 4th, the Better Business Bureau warned consumers about the risks of getting involved with a timeshare escrow company called Wade Capital Management. Now the BBB is investigating the legitimacy of another timeshare company by the name North South Title. Says the BBB:

Claiming to be from Davenport, Iowa it is hard to ignore the uncanny similarities to Wade Capital Management as both company’s “sale agreements” were identical in language and layout. Whether it is all part of the same ring or a copycat scam, the bottom line is that consumers who become involved end up losing thousands of dollars and are still stuck with a timeshare that they thought was sold.

You can get all the details at Phony Timeshare Services Strike Once More As usual in these cases, let the buyer beware!

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Tip JarDo you have tips or rumors you'd like to share? 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: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com