Father and Son Telemarketers Convicted in Timeshare Resale Fraud Affecting 1,000 Victims
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 17, 2013|
HOUSTON—Ronald Frank Muise, 51, and his son, Michael Derek Muise, 28, both of Las Vegas, Nevada, have been convicted of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in connection with a telemarketing fraud scheme that spanned almost five years and victimized approximately 1,000 people, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The Muises entered guilty pleas in federal court in Houston late yesterday afternoon.
The Muises and other alleged co-conspirators used various businesses known as The Jariv Companies to conduct a telemarketing timeshare resale scheme targeting timeshare owners throughout the United States and Canada. The Muises and others solicited timeshare owners by telephone to pay advance fees in exchange for The Jariv Companies promising they had willing buyers for the timeshare properties or points. In fact, the defendants did not have buyers and did not market or sell the property. They simply kept the money—almost $6 million in 2011-2012 alone.
The Jariv Companies were registered in various states and conducted business at multiple addresses in Houston; Las Vegas, Nevada; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Seattle, Washington.
The defendants and their employees falsely represented that they had buyers for timeshare weeks or points and solicited fees ranging from hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars from each timeshare owner. They falsely represented that the fees were fully refundable at closing and were used to secure the owners’ place in an acquisition involving corporate buyers, as well as to pay for legal expenses such as title searches, estoppel letters, and closing costs.
The defendants made several false representations to give the appearance of legitimacy. They claimed they were the only legitimate company selling timeshares for owners, were “certified,” had sold hundreds of timeshares, and had hundreds of employees. They also posted fake testimonials on websites for The Jariv Companies purporting to be from satisfied customers but were actually written by employees.
After money was paid for these “sales contracts,” the telemarketer would advise the owners that either the corporate buyer had pulled out of the acquisition or that other problems were encountered, but they had another buyer for the timeshare. The telemarketer would then conduct another pitch for additional money to ensure the deal closed. At times, veiled threats were made stating the owners could lose whatever money they had previously paid, as well as their "place in line" for inclusion in the sale or the deal.
Closings were not scheduled, sales did not occur, and no payments were made to timeshare owners for the sale of their property.The defendants and employees of The Jariv Companies simply pocketed the advanced fees paid by the timeshare owners.
Between February 1, 2011 and January 31, 2012, The Jariv Companies received approximately $6,925,137.04 in fraudulently obtained timeshare owner funds from approximately 1000 victims living in Canada and throughout the United States. The Muises received significant commissions for fraudulently obtaining victims money—30-40 percent in most cases. In 2011-2012, Ronald Muise received nearly $1 million, while Michael Muise received $440,000.
U.S. District Court Judge Lynn N. Hughes, who accepted the guilty pleas yesterday, has set sentencing for March 17, 2013. The conspiracy count carries a maximum imprisonment of 20 years in federal prison, but because the wire/mail fraud involved telemarketing of 10 or more victims over the age of 55, federal law provides for an additional 10-year sentence in addition to what was imposed for the underlying fraud. Both defendants were permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The convictions are the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, with assistance by FBI and Environmental Protection Agency. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martha Minnis and Katherine Haden are prosecuting the case.