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Timeshare resale scam based in Cabo Marina

sungoddess

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There's a fairly fresh scam that involves several "front" companies (presumably all in Mexico) working together to defraud consumers. They prey on American travelers vacationing in such places as Cabo San Lucas, telling them they can sell their timeshare for them at an impressively high amount. To gain credibility, they claim to be part of the Sabre Travel Network (which they are not) and say that this company is willing to purchase timeshares and then use the cost for tax write-off purposes.

The wrinkle is that you need to buy a membership to a nonexistent travel club (Grand Weeks), which allegedly allows you to stay at five- and six-star properties at highly discounted rates. Membership to this club costs $2000, plus financing fees and bank fees for foreign currency conversion on credit card charges.

They claim that you will receive payment for your timeshare within 60-90 days. But that never happens. Instead, one of the front companies insists that you must pay $700 for a title search, while another front company (claiming to handle the escrow) demands that you wire $875 in closing costs to Mexico. Then -- they demand another $800+, claiming that the bank in Mexico won't allow a wire transfer in excess of X amount of money -- and that to get your money, you have to pay attorneys' fees. They also counterfeit official-looking documents, such as wire transfer receipts from HSBC Bank.

Throughout all this, there are lots of demands for documentation to prove you (the consumer) are who you say you are, but everything about them is a lie.

These are some of the so-called "companies" involved:

Essential Resorts, which represents itself as a vacation property procurement company, is run by a very slimy guy who calls himself Julian Rosenthal. His partners in crime (literally) are Cindy Watts and Raul Mendez. This company is not licensed in the state of Florida and the Miami address listed on its web site is only a P.O. box.
Web site: http://www.essentialresortsltd.com

Grand Weeks/Servicios Vacacionales
This part of the operation is ostensibly in San Diego, but it's run by Raul Mendez (possibly his real name), who works his fraud from a restaurant on the marina in Cabo San Lucas. If you know the marina well, it's a very short walk from where the Buccaneer Queen pirate ship docks. They are not licensed in the state of California and the office address they use is in reality just a P.O. box. Their slick marketing materials make big promises, but their service is worthless. They have two web sites, one of which is now shut down:
http://www.grandweeks.com
http://www.grandweeksvip.com

Financial Services International (so-called escrow company)
They are not licensed in the state of Texas, and are not tenants in the San Antonio building listed on their web site. Instead they seem to be running their scam from a boiler room in Mexico. Key players call themselves James Hoffman, Tony Rogers, and Frank Rivers.
Web site: http://www.financialservices-int.com

All of these web sites were established last fall. It's quite possible that the front companies were conducting their scam under different names before, and very likely that they will create new names and web sites again. It’s also a safe bet that there are a number of other front companies in bed with them.

If you have paid any of these despicable con artists via credit card (incl. PayPal), contact your bank to dispute the charges right away. In addition, be sure to report their illegal activities to the many applicable regulatory agencies such as the State Attorneys General, Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov), and the FTC. I have compiled a list of recommended contacts – if you would like it, please let me know your email address, and I’ll be happy to send it along.
 

aliikai2

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Thanks for the detailed posting

This isn't just a Cabo problem. These types of scammers are operating all around the world. Right now Mexico is their favorite location as the laws aren't as tough against fraud as they are here in the US. The simple preventive measure to take is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is a scam.

Greg
 

sungoddess

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Where to file complaints

If you have been victimized by Essential Resorts, Servicios Vacacionales/Grand Weeks, Financial Services Int'l., or any similar scam outfits, be sure to file complaints. Here are some recommended agencies and resources:

Profeco (Mexican consumer protection agency)
http://revistadelconsumidor.gob.mx/?p=7731

Ripoff Report - add to this report:
http://www.ripoffreport.com/travel-services/essential-resorts/essential-resorts-grand-weeks-1b793.htm

Internet Crime Complaint Center
http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection
https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en

Paypal - report fraudulent seller (Essential Resorts)
https://www.paypal.com/webapps/helpcenter/article/?currentIssueID=10893&topicID=11500023&m=TCI

State Attorneys General (there are complaint forms on each state’s site)
http://www.naag.org/current-attorneys-general.php

Better Business Bureau (file complaints for Miami, San Diego, and San Antonio)
https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started

Florida Division of Consumer Services
https://csapp.800helpfla.com/CSPublicApp/Complaints/FileComplaint.aspx

State of Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation
Bureau of Compliance - Timeshare Section
Complete this form and snail mail with supporting documentation:
http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/lsc/documents/complaint_english.pdf

Miami-Dade County Consumer Protection Office (re Essential Resorts)
http://www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/csd/complaint_form.asp

Miami-Dade Police Dept. (re Essential Resorts)
Call the Economic Crimes Bureau: 305-994-1000 (M-F 8A-5P EST)
Web site: http://www.miamidade.gov/mdpd/

Orlando Police Dept. - Timeshare Crimes investigation
http://www.tugbbs.com/forums/showthread.php?t=165128
Investigating detectives, Michael Stevens and Hilary Bledsoe
email: michael.stevens@cityoforlando.net, hilary.bledsoe@cityoforlandonet

San Diego Police Dept.
http://www.sandiego.gov/police/crimereports/startaccess.html

San Antonio Police Dept.
http://www.sanantonio.gov/sapd/
email: carla.zainie@sanantonio.gov

U.S. Secret Service - field office phone #s by state (pg. 26):
http://www.secretservice.gov/press/Take_Charge.pdf

HSBC – if you have received counterfeit HSBC documents, such as a wire transfer receipt from Financial Services
email: usphishing@us.hsbc.com

Also contact media:

Jackie Callaway, Tampa Bay ABC station consumer action reporter
http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/about_us/staff/Jackie-Callaway
email: jcallaway@abcactionnews.com

And email your local ABC, NBC, and CBS TV consumer rights reporters.

Will Hobson, reporter for Tampa Bay Times
email: whobson@tampabay.com
 
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