Because of the warm and welcoming vacation destinations throughout the region, the Southeast Region (SER) has been at the forefront of the agency’s enforcement and educational efforts to halt fraudulent practices in the travel industry, where fraudsters take people’s money and turn their dream vacations into travel nightmares. Collectively, these law enforcement actions and initiatives have halted over 100 deceptive travel and vacation schemes and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in monetary judgments. Moreover, education efforts to help consumers avoid these types of deceptive and fraudulent scams have included informative consumer materials, consumer and industry outreach events, and significant worldwide, nationwide and local press.
In the late 1990s, SER led Operation Trip Trap, a joint law enforcement and consumer education effort targeting companies that were alleged to have sold vacation packages through fraudulent telemarketing. In addition to four cases filed by the FTC, 47 state actions were filed on behalf of consumers. SER followed that law enforcement sweep in 2000 by leading an even broader initiative, Operation Travel Unravel, resulting in 85 actions by the FTC and 19 federal and state law enforcement partners.
The SER also led a 2013 sweep, Last Resort, involving 83 civil actions by the FTC and 28 states, and criminal law enforcement against more than 184 defendants. The sweep included 25 actions by international law enforcement partners from 10 other countries. The FTC law enforcement actions resulted in orders banning defendants from selling timeshare resale services and imposed tens of millions of dollars in monetary judgments.
Most recently, SER brought an action against J. William Enterprises and its owners that resulted in a judgment of $18,706,079 and permanently banned the defendants from timeshare resale services and telemarketing. As part of the settlement order, the Florida-based operators behind a purportedly deceptive timeshare resale scheme were ordered to surrender approximately $3.4 million worth of assets including bank accounts, homes, vehicles, a Rolex watch, and jewelry.