Posted on Friday, September 24, 2010
Four people were arrested and seven companies, four in South Florida, were ordered to stop business operations under what state officials say may be the largest action against Florida's burgeoning time share resale industry.
Three state agencies cooperated in a sweep of 67 companies across the state, uncovering telemarketing and regulatory violations in 26 operations. Among the companies' alleged violations: using unlicensed employees, not having a business license and operating out of an undisclosed location. The violators were concentrated in South Florida, the Tampa- St. Petersburg area and Orlando, and fined a total of $124,000.
The Florida Attorney General's Office, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation worked together on the sweep.
State agricultural law enforcement officials arrested Mark Allan Goolsby, manager of International Resort Sellers LLC in Orlando, who was criminally charged with being an unlicensed commercial telephone seller. State officials also ordered the company closed. Goolsby had been cited in 2009 for allegedly operating an illegal telemarketing business and employing unlicensed telemarketers.
International Resort could not be reached for comment after leaving several phone messages. The phone number listed for Goolsby, at his address in state documents, was disconnected.
Officials also arrested two other unlicensed employees, working for Lower Interest Rate Consulting, of Orlando, and Vacation Property Resales, of Tampa, found to have outstanding warrants for other offenses, including cocaine possession and battery. The fourth arrest was of a woman working for Consumer Credit Group, of Pinellas Park, who previously was cited for having no telemarketing license.
In a separate but coordinated action, Attorney General Bill McCollum announced Thursday his office filed two additional lawsuits against time share resellers, including one based in Broward County, for allegedly misleading time share owners about their services.
The suit claims U.S. Timeshare Management, of Fort Lauderdale, and U.S. Vacations, of Largo, told potential customers they already had buyers for their units when it was not true — common ploy used by some unscrupulous resale telemarketers, officials said. Investigators said it's not uncommon for owners to pay the companies $1,500 or more upfront, but the receive little for their money beyond an advertisement on a website.
"Fraud in the time share resale industry must be stopped," said McCollum in a written statement.
The phone numbers for U.S. Timeshare Management were disconnected. A representative reached at U.S. Vacations declined to comment.
State and federal regulators have become increasingly concerned about the resale industry as complaints mount from cash-strapped owners, desperate to sell their units. Questionable time share resale operations this year were the most common consumer complaint to the Attorney General's Office this year, with 8,500 received since January.
The agency is investigating 49 companies and has filed nine lawsuits, including the two most recent ones, against resellers.
Among those South Florida companies ordered to shut down were Audit Recovery Systems Inc., of Boca Raton, and Factional Ownership Liquidators Inc., of West Palm Beach. The companies could not be reached for comment despite several attempts by phone.
Also ordered shuttered were Beach Industries, of West Palm Beach, and Dorado Consulting Inc., of North Palm Beach. No phone numbers or websites could be found for these companies.
Florida has more time shares than any other state, according to the American Resort Development Association, with 50 percent of them in Orlando.
Sun Sentiel Diane Lade can be reached at dlade@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4295.