Three Wisconsin residents have been convicted in a timeshare resale telemarketing scheme that authorities say defrauded more than 3,000 people in all 50 states and Canada. Victims were cheated out of a combined $2.5 million.
A jury found Jason D. Schultz, 31, and Jessica M. Gilbert, 25, both of Green Bay, and Jessica Weinhart, 31, of Neenah guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud between April 2007 and April 2011, U.S. Attorney James Santelle announced Tuesday. Each faces up to 30 years in prison.
The defendants used several different business names throughout the four-year-long scheme, including Integrated Advertising Solutions, National Timeshare Resales, Administrative Timeshare Resales, and Midwest Timeshares.
Victims and witnesses testified that timeshare owners, most of whom were elderly, were contacted by telemarketers and told that interested buyers were prepared to purchase their timeshares in exchange for upfront fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
Victims then stated that once they handed over their payment information, they received one-page contracts telling them they were only paying for advertising on the company website. Evidence proved that telemarketers determined the fee amount by the vulnerability and susceptibility of the victims to their dishonest sales pitch.
The companies allegedly charged customers anywhere from $200 to $2,500 to sell their timeshares. When victims contacted the companies for a refund or to inquire about the progress of the sale of their timeshare, they were lied to or given excuses to prevent them from contacting their banks to stop payment.
At least a dozen seniors from around the country testified in court that they were guaranteed buyers in exchange for an upfront fee. Because the scheme defrauded at least 10 consumers over the age of 55, the FBI stated, the defendants faced enhanced penalties.
Sentencing hearings for the three defendants are scheduled for Jan. 27 in Green Bay.
Four Wisconsin residents were charged in the same timeshare scam in July 2013: Mark S. Parks, 39, and his wife, Mindy L. Parks, 34, both of Denmark; Ashley M. Conant, 28, of Green bay; and her mother, Eileen M. Goltz, 51, of Port Charlotte, Fla.
Five people have pleaded guilty in the timeshare resale fraud, including Mark S. Parks, and are awaiting sentencing.
The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted a joint investigation of the case, with assistance from the Better Business Bureau and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.
It is important that timeshare owners remember never to trust companies who call out of nowhere claiming they have a prospective buyer. Timeshare owners who receive solicitations like this to advertise or sell their timeshares should contact their state attorney general’s office.