We are all very familiar with Celebrities endorsing different products in adverts, be they on TV or in magazines, so much so, we don’t tend to think they may be “endorsing” a fraud. In most cases, that is not the case, but there are some exceptions and one of these has been highlighted in a recent case reported in the Daily Mail.
Although this particular fraud was not named as a “timeshare fraud” it does reinforce the problem of “celebrity endorsements” and how the consumer will be swayed into falling for the con.
It is a subject that Timeshare Insider published back in August 2017 in the old Inside Timeshare, it featured Jennie Bond, the former BBC Royal Correspondent and presenter of Rip Off Britain. Ms Bond for many years was the Ambassador for Club la Costa and produced many videos extolling the resorts and the quality, unfortunately, they did not address the real problem, how it was sold.
Another example in the same article was Anfi and David Silva, who coming from Arguineguin, Gran Canaria, was a great choice as Ambassador for the Anfi resorts based in the area. Again, he was filmed placing the first sand on the new artificial beach at Tauro, a project that has been subject to some very dubious goings on.
PDF of the original article
Another example was the use by Azure in Malta to sell their “timeshare investments” using the Manchester United players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. Azure sales staff were claiming they “owned properties” in order to encourage consumers to “invest” using finance supplied by Barclays Partner Finance.
Mirror Azure Article
So, going back to the Daily Mail article, the headline reads:
“Jailed, the fraudster who conned 8,000 in £226m Caribean resort scam”
David Ames, a former double-glazing salesman used many “celebrities” as endorsements as well as “aggressive sales tactics” to lure and con the unsuspecting into “investing” in his scheme. Those supposedly backing his scheme and being used to endorse it included: Liverpool Football Club, tennis star Pat Cash, ex-Chelsea footballer Andy Townsend, South African golfer Gary Player, and property guru Phil Spencer (Location, Location, Location).
Certainly a very prestigious bunch of “endorsements”.
With these “endorsements”, he sold over 8,200 units which included beach cabanas, villas and hotel rooms in seven resorts. Only 175 of these units were built and located at Buccament Bay in St Vincent.
“Investors” paid £1000 as a deposit and then 30% of the total purchase price, all with the “promise” of earning an income from rental (when not using) of £20,000.
When this scheme was running, Harlequin Group (Ames’ company) had a shortfall of £1.2billion, this left “investors” facing huge losses in many cases a loss of 100%.
Many “investors” who fell for the “scam” may never be compensated, especially if their “investments were before 2010, as it was at this point Ames’ actions were deemed “Illegal”. One of these “investors” the article mentions is a 65-year lady who has lost £250,000.
The article also shows the “commissions” the salespeople made, one was Michael Withey, who is reported as “earning £3million, and this is without any previous or relevant property experience.
Another salesman persuaded his own brother to invest to the tune of £60,000 and has not received a penny back. His brother is believed to have made over £1million in commission. No wonder the two brothers have fallen out.
Does all this sound familiar?
It should as all these frauds are basically the same, it is only in the name there is any difference, one is openly timeshare the other is supposedly property, but both use the same techniques to defraud the innocent.
This does really make you wonder about “Celebrities & Endorsements”, how are they “recruited” and allow themselves to be used in this manner, have they been “duped” or are they willing accomplices?
Full Daily Mail Article
Serious Fraud Office
Would you trust any Endorsement by a Celebrity after reading this, I know I certainly wouldn’t.
Our article this Friday continues with our “buy to rent” series with “Bluegreen Vacations Suspends Accounts Based on “Suspected” Commercial Activity” by Irene Parker.
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