It is likely to come as no surprise that Florida is the timeshare capital of the United States. The young and young at heart clammer to own a vacation property in Florida. Given the high cost of oceanfront property in the Sunshine State, many people are attracted to the much more affordable option of purchasing a timeshare. Because of the potential for scams, the timeshare sales industry is subjected to significant regulation and oversight. If you are involved in the timeshare industry and have been accused of fraud or received a target letter indicating you are under investigation for fraud, you need an experienced timeshare fraud defense attorney on your side as soon as possible to protect your rights and your future. At Jonathan Rose P.A., we have the experience and the commitment needed to protect and defend you if you are a defendant or target of a timeshare fraud investigation and/or prosecution.
The Orlando Timeshare Industry
The basic concept behind “timesharing” is essentially just what you would think it is – more than one party sharing time in a property. Unlike renting a property, however, investing in a timeshare gives you a legal ownership interest in the property. That ownership interest only allows you to use the property for a set period of time each year (typically in blocks of one week); however, it is interest that can be bought and sold. If the timeshare is a “deeded timeshare”, you buy a specific unit for a specific week each year and your interest is considered an interest in real property that may be gifted or inherited upon your death.
While there are several federal laws – wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, to name a few – that may be violated while selling, buying, or “matching” a timeshare owner with a prospective buyer, the laws that govern the original advertising and sale of timeshares are those of the state where the property is located. In Florida, Florida Statute Section 721.01 et seq. governs the timeshare industry. A conviction for violating state or federal timeshare fraud laws could result in a lengthy prison sentence and/or a hefty fine.
What Is Timeshare Fraud in Florida?
The State of Florida has strict laws and regulations relating to timeshares sold in or from the state. For example, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) must review and approve all advertising materials as well as scripts used by telemarketers involved in the sale of timeshares. If a telemarketer deviates from an approved script while attempting to make a sale to a potential buyer, a business may become the target of a state or federal law enforcement investigation.
Telemarketers may intentionally or unintentionally deviate from the approved script. An intentional deviation may occur if the salesperson is too eager to make a sale or is attempting to reach a sales quota. In other situations, a telemarketer may not be aware that he/she is deviating from the approved script. An accidental deviation could happen, or an owner/manager might hand out “hot scripts” (knowingly unapproved scripts) in an effort to make more sales.
Am I the Target of a Federal Investigation?
Typically, a potential timeshare fraud case makes it on the radar of federal law enforcement agencies because of consumer complaints. If enough consumers complain, or the complaints are egregious enough, the federal government may start an investigation. Although the timeshare industry is regulated by state law, there are also several federal laws that could be violated when a salesperson violates the state law. If a federal law enforcement agency does become involved, you may receive a “target letter” notifying you of your status as a subject in a case. A target letter should include at least the following:
- The nature of the alleged crime, including the federal statutes alleged to have been violated.
- Your Constitutional rights as a target and potential defendant.
- Deadlines for responses and/or requests for documents or contact.
If a federal grand jury oversees the timeshare fraud investigation, it has broad powers to conduct that investigation. The breadth and extent of the investigation means that almost anyone remotely involved with the alleged criminal conduct could become a target.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Accused of Timeshare Fraud in Orlando?
If you were arrested for timeshare fraud in Orlando, or you have reason to believe that you are the target of a timeshare fraud investigation, you need to take steps to protect yourself and your future immediately. The first step is to consult with an experienced Orlando timeshare fraud defense attorney. You need to understand your rights and have someone on your side who can ensure that those rights are protected. Furthermore, being accused of timeshare fraud means your reputation and your financial future are probably at stake as well, increasing the need to have an experienced attorney to represent you as soon as possible.
In some cases, an experienced attorney can contact the prosecutor and get the charges dismissed after providing sufficient evidence of a mistake or lack of intent to violate the law on your part. If that does not work, your attorney will aggressively work to investigate and negotiate on your behalf to try and reach a satisfactory resolution of the situation without a trial. When a trial is inevitable (or desirable), an experienced Orlando timeshare fraud defense attorney will diligently prepare and aggressively defend you at that trial.
Contact an Experienced Orlando Timeshare Fraud Defense Attorney
When your reputation, freedom, and future are potentially at stake, you need an experienced Orlando timeshare fraud defense attorney on your side. If you are being investigated for timeshare fraud, or you have already been arrested and charged with timeshare fraud in Florida, contact Attorney Jonathan Rose today by calling 407-894-4555 or filling out our online contact form.