Anthony Colon, Troy Dye, Chris Gilkey, Marc Martinangelo, Robert Santiago of the Palm Beach, Florida area were all indicted last week after federal authorities accused them of participating in a national timeshare fraud scheme, according to news reports. The scheme, which reportedly operated in connection with two travel businesses called Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions, is suspected to have netted 22,000 victims, and several parties have already admitted to having participated. The five new defendants are 37-year-old Colon of Delray Beach, 48-year-old Dye of Boynton Beach, 30-year-old Gilkey of Lake Worth, 33-year-old Marc Martinangelo of Boynton Beach, and 26-year-old Santiago of West Palm Beach. It is not known whether any of the new defendants has retained a private criminal defense lawyer.
Sources indicate that the quintet is suspected of having participated in the scheme, which investigators believe brought in approximately $30 million by defrauding participants. According to a press release by the U.S. Attorney's office, Creative Vacation Solutions and Universal Marketing Solutions targeted timeshare holders by calling them and claiming that the timeshare property was transferring ownership and that a refundable fee for closing costs was required from timeshare holders. The victims were allegedly told that the closings would occur within three months and that each timeshare holder needed to put down 'several thousand dollars' in refundable closing fees.
News sources indicate that the companies used pressure tactics to get timeshare holders to pay, sometimes telling them that the buyer was on the other line and needed to hear back immediately. However, once the timeshare holders paid the closing fees, the companies allegedly cut contact.
Investigators reportedly discovered that the companies never sold any of the timeshare properties. Authorities reportedly believe that the 22,000 victims of the scam are spread out across all 50 states, and one news source has claimed that the case is Florida's largest source of fraud complaints in the past several years.
According to the same press release, several parties have already been sentenced or have pled guilty to participating in the scam. In August 2011, Steve Flan, Brian Morris, and Ryan Brazel were convicted of multiple charges in connection to the scheme. Also in August, Joel Intravaia pled guilty to several counts of wire fraud and mail fraud conspiracy, and that June, Jennifer Kirk pled guilty to the same charges. Kirk is reportedly believed to have operated the fraudulent companies.
News sources indicate that the five new defendants have been accused of working as telemarketers for Creative Vacation Solutions and Universal Marketing Solutions, calling timeshare owners and falsifying information. It is not entirely clear how investigators determined that they were aware of the fraudulent nature of the companies. There is also little indication as to how the spoils of the scheme were divided amongst the alleged participants.
It is not clear whether any of the thousands of defendants plan to file damages against the companies. It is similarly unclear whether a class-action lawsuit may be forthcoming to help victims of the scam recover their losses.