Guilty plea in timeshare resale fraud conspiracy

March 21, 2017 9:05pm

•  Mexican citizen enters plea in Sacramento federal court

•  A scheme built on a foundation of lies and hopes

Marco Antonio Ramirez Zuno, 32, of Cancun, Mexico, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in relation to a timeshare resale fraud scheme, says U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.

According to court documents, between 2011 and 2012, Mr. Zuno and others conducted a timeshare resale fraud scheme based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Sales agents including co‑defendant Juan Montalbo, who also goes by the name of John Monte, conducted sales meetings to convince prospective customers to purchase a timeshare vacation package marketed under the names Platinum Access Program or World Luxury Destinations.

If customers had existing timeshare properties, Mr. Montalbo assured them that another company, Continental Resources, would arrange for their sale. When the customers returned from Mexico, they were contacted by co-defendant Wayne York, who also calls himself Tim Hamick or Michael Halston, who claimed to represent companies named Property Marketing Group or Eagle Market Solution and claiming that a bona fide purchaser had been found and was ready to buy their existing timeshares. Others were contacted directly by Mr. York without first giving their information to Mr. Montalbo.

According to court documents, Mr. York and others would then extract a series of upfront payments from the victims, which he claimed were required to be wired to bank accounts in Mexico in order for the guaranteed sale to be completed.

Mr. York and the others would lie to buyers, telling them that a buyer for the timeshare had already been located and that all the prepaid fees wired to Mexico were being held in escrow and would be refunded as soon as the transaction was completed.

But after the victims wired the money to Mexico, Mr. York and the others would break off all contact with them. According to court documents, Mr. Zuno managed the Mexican bank accounts used in the fraud, trained co-conspirators on how to conduct the fraud, and managed the disbursement of the proceeds of the fraud.

The charges against Messrs. Montalbo and York are only allegations; those defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mr. Zuno has been in custody since his arrest in April 2016 in Miami, Florida. Messrs. Montalbo and York have been released on bond and are next scheduled to appear in court on June 6 for a further status hearing on their cases.

Meanwhile, Mr. Zuno is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Mendez on June 27, when he will face a possible maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.