What is Timeshare Fraud? A NYC Criminal Attorney Explains
Timeshares are a type of vacation plan in which consumers purchase fractional ownership in a resort space. Timeshares are structured in different ways, but in general owners are assigned to a particular resort or location for a set period of time. They can visit their home resort, or can trade to acquire points to use elsewhere or trade for weeks of vacation elsewhere. Timeshare owners pay an initial upfront cost for their fractional ownership and typically pay ongoing annual maintenance and/or membership fees.
While timeshares are a legitimate investment in many cases, there is also a great deal of fraud surrounding the purchase, sale, and rental of time share properties. When fraud occurs, state authorities or the federal government may become involved in prosecuting those suspected of committing fraud offenses. Defendants can face serious criminal charges and should respond assertively when accusations are made or an investigation is initiated. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC provides legal representation to clients who have been accused of timeshare and vacation plan fraud. Our New York City criminal defense firm understands the laws applicable to transactions involving time share sales, rentals, and marketing and we can assist clients in arguing their actions do not constitute illegal fraud.
What is Timeshare and Vacation Plan Fraud?
Fraud occurs whenever there are false statements that are made about material facts. To be convicted of fraud, a defendant generally either had to knowingly make the false statements or had to act recklessly with regards to finding out the truth of the statements (i.e. turned a blind eye to the truth). Omitting material facts can also be a form of fraud.
Fraud in connection with timeshares or vacation plans occurs any time false statements, misleading statements, or material omissions occur in relation to the timeshare market. This can occur in the timeshare resale market, when timeshare owners are scammed into giving their time shares to “charity,” or when false statements are made to convince consumers to purchase timeshares.
Some of the largest companies in the timeshare industry have been accused accused of being involved with fraudulent or dishonest behavior. For example, allegations have arisen regarding a Wyndham timeshare scam. Most of these allegations center around Wyndham’s timeshare presentations running longer than promised or center around false promises and aggressive sales tactics. Examples have also arisen surrounding a Westgate timeshare scam, with consumers saying they did not get what was promised in aggressive sales pitches.
It is important to realize, however, that consumer remorse and high-pressure sales do not necessarily mean a crime has been committed. For a prosecutor to get a conviction on fraud, the prosecutor has to prove that misstatements or omissions were made in violation of the law. There is often grey area and an experienced NY criminal law attorney can help defendants who have been accused of involvement with timeshare scams to argue that there is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a fraud was committed.
Timeshare Resale Fraud
One of the most common types of timeshare fraud is timeshare resale fraud. Consumers are often eager to get rid of their timeshares once the cost of ongoing maintenance fees becomes too much or when they grow tired of trying to follow the timeshare rules. Scams target desperate consumers, especially those who have posted advertisements in industry websites or newsletters indicating they want to sell.
Typically, a timeshare resale scam occurs when a phone call is made to a timeshare owner who wants to sell. The timeshare owner is told there are buyers ready to pay cash immediately, but the owner simply has to pay a few hundred dollars up front to list the timeshare or to facilitate the transaction and transfer. In reality, there is no buyer and the goal is to get the money from the timeshare owner.
Websites and online marketing are also used to target timeshare owners and commit timeshare resale fraud. Websites are set up where consumers are told they can market their timeshares for a small fee to willing buyers. The site collects the money from the timeshare owner but no sale materializes and the promises the website made in its marketing are not accurate.
In some cases, consumers desperate to get rid of a timeshare are also the targets of a donate timeshare to charity scam . Timeshare donation companies offer to transfer time shares to charity in exchange for a fee. In exchange for the transfer, the owner is promised a large tax deduction and the end of contractual obligations to the time share company. Of course, the owner pays the fee and either no transfer is made or there is no tax deduction as promised.
How a Timeshare Fraud Lawyer Can Help If You’re Accused of a Timeshare Scam
When you are accused of involvement with a timeshare scam, you could face federal charges for offenses including mail fraud, wire fraud, and telemarketing fraud. Fraud crimes are also illegal under New York State law and you may be charged with a felony offense if the fraud scheme resulted in money or items of significant value being misappropriated. It is very common for defendants who are charged with a fraud crime not only to face the possibility of a long jail sentence but also to be required to make restitution and repay all funds obtained as part of the timeshare scam.
The question of whether fraud occurred, however, is a highly technical one in some cases as it may not always be clear whether statements were misleading, whether omitted facts were material, or whether you knew that claims you were making could be considered fraudulent claims. The job of a New York City criminal defense lawyer is to raise questions and doubts about whether the actions you took constituted fraud so you can try to make it impossible for a prosecutor to be able to demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
At Bukh Law Firm, PLLC, we have extensive experience representing clients who have been accused of timeshare scams. We understand that the charges are serious and we give your case our full attention as our dedicated legal team goes to work on your behalf. Learn more today by speaking with a NYC fraud lawyer about your options for responding to timeshare fraud allegations.