New state laws aims at timeshare resale fraud July 1
Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
Published June 24, 2012
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Friday applauded the signing of a bill to crack down on timeshare resale scams — the state’s No. 1 fraud complaint for years, with much of it oozing from telemarketers based in Palm Beach County.
The state law, effective July 1, comes after scores of firms have already shut their doors or scattered, but is designed to make it harder for such companies to spring up again. Federal prosecutors in Illionois and Florida have gone after some the industry’s top executives, handing out a 15-year sentence for one former Lake Worth-based manager, Jennifer Kirk.
“By strengthening Florida’s timeshare resale laws and focusing on marketing and advertising practices, we can protect timeshare owners from unscrupulous companies that may try to scam them during the resale process,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.
In 2010, The Palm Beach Post identified the scheme as Florida’s top fraud complaint but found few of the principals were facing any meaningful penalties.
The companies have been based all over south and central Florida, though at one point 10 of 17 companies under subpoena by the Attorney General’s Office, and two more facing active litigation, were located in Palm Beach County. One firm was associated with convicted pill mill kingpin Jeff George.
As many as 12,000 complaints a year poured in from around the nation. Complaints told a similar story: Telemarketers in Florida told owners of time-share properties they had a buyer but needed hundreds or thousands of dollars in upfront fees for title or closing costs. Owners paid, but typically no buyer existed. The companies often later claimed they were only offering advertising services.
Under the state law, companies will not be able to state or imply they have a buyer waiting without providing a purchaser’s name and address. The law also strengthens the consumer’s right to cancel.
House Bill 1001 was sponsored by Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, and in the Senate by majority leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.