In 2010, we received more than 12,000 complaints about timeshare resale fraud—more than the next four highest complaint categories combined. Tackling timeshare resale fraud is a top priority in my office. In addition to championing tougher laws to stop timeshare resale fraud, we diligently investigate these types of cases. I am pleased to share that one of our investigations has resulted in a 188-month sentence in federal prison for a woman, Jennifer Kirk, for conspiracy to commit fraud and wire fraud.
Kirk, now a resident of Illinois, was operating a timeshare resale scam that stole $30 million from more than 22,000 victims across the country. Kirk owned and operated Universal Marketing Solutions, which later became Creative Vacation Solutions, from October 2007 until December 2009 when my office shut these companies down. The companies were located in and operated out of Palm Beach County.
The complaint states that Kirk employed telemarketers who placed cold calls to timeshare owners and then falsely represented that their company had actual buyers for the owners’ timeshare property. Her telemarketers then solicited advanced fees of up to several thousand dollars from each victim in purported closing costs that they promised would be refunded to the owner once the closing on the property occurred.
According to the complaint, despite collecting fees from approximately $1,200 to $3,000 from each of the 22,000 victims, her companies never sold a single timeshare unit. The complaint also alleged that the defendant and her co-conspirators pocketed the closing costs. My office obtained an injunction and asset freeze against the businesses, which prevented Kirk and the co-defendants from continuing to operate any timeshare or timeshare related businesses and froze all assets related to the businesses named in the complaint.
To date, 11 individuals have been charged in connection with the operation of Creative Vacation Solutions and Universal Marketing Solutions. The federal investigation is continuing into those timeshare resale scams. The United States Postal Inspection Service assisted with this investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Illinois prosecuted the case.
Florida will not tolerate people who prey on those trying to sell their timeshares. This case is a great example of law enforcement working together to protect consumers.
On Monday, we will pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who challenged America’s leaders to live up to the principles that this nation was founded on—freedom and equality. His passion and dedication to ensuring that every man, woman and child could pursue their dreams free of discrimination has truly made America the land of opportunity.