>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:
FORT LAUDERDALE: Benjamin C. Harris, 52, has been arrested and charged with unlicensed real estate activity and three counts of unlicensed telemarketing. The charges are related to alleged timeshare resale fraud that occurred back in January, February and March 2012.
Harris was operating a business called George Michael Properties, Inc., which was incorporated in Florida in October of 2010 but has been inactive (administratively dissolved for not filing an annual report) since Sept. 2012.
In one online venue the company is described thusly: George Michael Properties, Inc. is a Vacation Property Realty Company. We specialize in people that own vacation property that either want to liquidate, benefit or enjoy their vacation property real estate. We make it easy for the current owner to sell or rent their resort and we make it easy for new owners get acclimated to using their new vacation property for many years of relaxation and building memories to share for a lifetime. Here at the GMPI family, we have many years of combined experience to assist our clients in every aspect of becoming a new owner or to professionally become a former owner of vacation property real estate.
The main thrust of the company seems to have been calling timeshare owners with an offer to sell their timeshares for them within 180 days, with a money-back guarantee if the timeshares weren’t sold within that time period.
Harris is alleged to have represented himself as working for George Michael Properties (when in reality he owned it) and under that guise collected money upfront for the company’s services, but the charges against him claim that he pocketed the money, made no attempt to sell the timeshares and never refunded the money.
Though the current charges against him include only three instances of fraud (in Minnesota, Missouri and Satsuma, Fla.) it’s likely there are more victims. For instance, in Ripoff Report someone named Joyce in Connecticut filed a complaint against him in Dec. 2011 claiming he ripped her off for a goodly sum. First he allegedly charged her $358 upfront, then:
He said the closings would take place on December 5th and the other on December 19th, 2011. He needed $1,208.00 to close on one where half of this wold be returned to me in the closing. The other one he took $1016.00 out of my account, not only once but twice. He claimed taking it twice was an error and that he would overnight it back to me. Then he said he returned it to me by prioity mail and tracked it to Danbury, a town very close to where I live. You guessed it, I never did get it. [sic]
From the three instances for which he was arrested he allegedly collected a total of around $1,300.
According to the Florida Department of Professional and Business Regulation, neither Harris nor his company are licensed to conduct real estate activity in Florida.
Harris was booked into the Joseph V. Conte Facility on Dec. 10 and remanded to Broward County Main jail on Dec. 12, where he is being held without bond for violating his probation on an out-of-state aggravated assault case.
WEST PALM BEACH: This is something new to me. I’ve become familiar with an awful lot of timeshare-related lawsuits over the years, but this is the first one I’ve come across involving an objection to the payment of title insurance by timeshare/fractional owners.
The case, entitled McIntyre v. Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc., et al., Case No. 13-80184-Civ-RNS, is presently pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola’ recent ruling against Marriott’s motion to dismiss allows the case to proceed to discovery and class certification. In his decision, Judge Scola denied Marriott’s motion on plaintiffs’ claim of unjust enrichment and permitted plaintiffs an opportunity to replead an alternate claim under Florida’s Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act, holding that “the Marriott Defendants’ alleged misrepresentations about the necessity of purchasing title insurance as a component of purchasing the timeshare are fairly construed as a misrepresentation regarding the promotion of the timeshare plan.”
The class action complaint alleges that, as part of the sales process for timeshares, Marriott requires purchasers to obtain title insurance for their fractional shares and, through a Marriott-owned subsidiary, provides that coverage for an additional fee. Plaintiffs allege that because Marriott purchased and developed the underlying real estate, and created the timeshare estates on that property, title insurance for original purchasers was unnecessary and superfluous to the protection already afforded under the special warranty deeds they received. In sum, plaintiffs allege that Marriott takes advantage of timeshare purchasers by requiring them to purchase something that appears legitimate but serves no legitimate purpose other than to increase Marriott’s profits on the sale.
The plaintiffs’ case is being handled by New York-based Newman Ferrara, LLP. Potential class members and others interested in learning more about this case or similar actions, may contact Newman Ferrara partner Jeffrey M. Norton by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (212) 619-5400
Stay tuned for more as this case moves forward.
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