There are numerous approaches to getting rid of your timeshare, but you probably weren't planning to hire a drug addict to handle that.
I'd bet you also weren't thinking of paying a convicted felon to help you out with this. Racketeering and grand theft are hardly the kind of background you'd want to see.
It sounds crazy, but hundreds of timeshare owners were bilked out of up to $10,000 each in a scam that did just this.
How this timeshare scam worked
- The prospects. The company gets a list of timeshare owners, some of whom are hoping to sell their timeshare.
- The hook. They call you and say they have a buyer for your timeshare. If you've been wanting to sell, you could be thinking "Hallelujah - this is the answer to my prayers!"
- There's a catch. Next they tell you that you need to put some money in to cover various fees to seal the deal.
- You pay. You figure it's worth paying something, so you give them the money. The amount you need to pay rises through this process, going as high as $10,000 in some cases.
- They take your money, then do nothing. In fact, out of all the instances the prosecutors have looked at, this company didn't sell a single timeshare.
- You still own the timeshare, and are on the hook for your normal timeshare-related payments. Your situation is exactly the same as before - except that you just gave thousands of dollars to a bunch of crooks.
Juicy tidbits about this scam
The federal case against Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group has been progressing for many months, and a major indictment was recently unsealed. Here are a few interesting details in the feds' allegations.
- Founded by convicted criminals. One founder, "Joey Cigars" Crapella, spent 7 years in jail for racketeering and grand theft. The other founder, "Posh" Pappalardo, spent 6 years in prison for drugs, firearms, and counterfeiting.
- Staffed by drug addicts. The company knowingly hired heroin addicts and criminals to work the operation. I suppose they probably worked cheap, and didn't have too many qualms about what they were doing.
- Big deal. This was a major operation that raked in about $5 million in a year. The case includes charges against 41 people, 23 of whom have agreed to plea deals.
- Linked to organized crime. With nicknames like "Joey Cigars", this sounds like a mafia movie, doesn't it? The feds allege that the other founder held meetings with the Gambino organized crime family, and threatened to rip off someone's face with a claw hammer.
Yep, crooks and addicts. That's who I'd want to trust with my money! 🙁
Don't let yourself be scammed
- There's no invisible buyer. No matter how much you want to get rid of your timeshare, never, NEVER believe somebody who calls you out of the blue and tells you they have a buyer. This is a classic way that timeshare scams operate. People who need to sell can be vulnerable because they really want to believe this buyer exists.
- Don't believe callers. In fact, never believe anybody who calls you out of the blue about your timeshare, no matter who they say they are. Other scammers have claimed to be working for reputable companies, or even said they were government employees.
- Don't do business with unsolicited callers. If you get any unsolicited call about your timeshare, be very suspicious. If they ask you for money, no matter what the pretext, then it's almost certainly a scam. The safest course of action is to do business only with companies where you make first contact - after researching them, of course.
- Remember this image. If you get a call like this, just picture the person on the other end as a haggard drug addict, with a cigar-smoking boss sitting nearby counting large stacks of money. That should do the trick!
Florida is the state with the most timeshares, so it's not too surprising that it's also the state that has had the most timeshare scams, including this one based in Fort Lauderdale. The Florida Attorney General's office has been cracking down in recent years, but there are still scams operating that prey on cash-strapped timeshare owners. Beware.