Man sentenced for victimizing area residents in timeshare scam

News-DemocratOctober 29, 2013 

A man who was convicted in a nationwide telemarketing scam has been sentenced to 40 months in federal prison for victimizing at least 54 Southern Illinois residents.

Robert Thomas, 36 of Lakeworth, Fla., worked for Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions, companies that promised to help people sell timeshare vacation properties for a fee.

According to U.S. District Attorney Stephen Wigginton, the companies collected the fees but didn't sell a single timeshare for its customers while in business from October 2007 through January of 2010.

Nationwide, the companies are blamed for defrauding 22,000 people of about $30 million.

Thomas pleaded guilty in July to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

According to Wigginton, Thomas told customers he had buyers for their timeshare properties and promised to close the deals in 60-90 days. He asked customers for several thousand dollars in closing costs with the promise that the money would be returned when the deal was completed. But Wigginton said there was never a buyer interested in the properties and the fees were simply pocketed.

So far 30 people have been charged in relation to the scam. Jennifer Kirk, former chief executive officer of the two companies, pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

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