The Federal Trade Commission put the telemarketing and timeshare businesses off-limits to a south Florida couple who allegedly operated a deceptive telemarketing scheme that victimized property owners hoping to sell their timeshares.
Pasquale Pappalardo and his wife, Lisa Tumminia-Pappalardo, agreed to settlements with the FTC that permanently ban them from telemarketing and engaging in timeshare resale services. The case against Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group, Inc. is part of the FTC's ongoing effort to crack down on con artists who use fraud and deception to take advantage of consumers in financial distress.
According to the FTC's complaint, filed in October 2010, the defendants conned consumers by promising that they had buyers lined up and waiting to buy the consumers' timeshares. The defendants charged consumers an up-front fee, usually $1,996, but promised a full refund upon closing of the timeshare sale. The FTC alleged that, after the consumers paid the fee, they were told to expect a contract from Timeshare Mega Media. What they received turned out to be a contract to market and advertise their timeshare, and not a sales contract, and many consumers signed and returned the contract thinking it was a sales contract, the complaint alleges. Those who questioned its validity allegedly were given the run-around by the company and falsely told that a sales contract would follow. In fact, according to the FTC, the company never had any timeshare buyers lined up and never actually assisted anyone in selling a timeshare. When consumers discovered this and demanded their money back, they found it nearly impossible to get a refund, or even get a call back. The Commission estimates that in the 20 months the defendants operated, thousands of consumers were defrauded out of at least $2.7 million. In October 2010, a federal court halted the operation and froze the defendants' assets, pending resolution of the case.
In addition to banning Pasquale Pappalardo and Lisa Tumminia-Pappalardo from telemarketing and engaging in timeshare resale services, the settlement orders announced today permanently prohibit them from misrepresenting any product or service, selling or using customers' personal information, failing to properly dispose of customer information within 30 days of the orders, and attempting to collect payments from past customers.
The order against Pasquale Pappalardo imposes a judgment of almost $2.7 million, which will be suspended when he surrenders the proceeds from the sale of a condominium. The full judgment will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition. The court also entered a $2.7 million default judgment against Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group Inc., Timeshare Market Pro Inc., Tapia Consulting Inc., Joseph Crapella, Pasqualino Agovino, Louis Tobias Duany, and Patricia A. Walker.
To learn how to avoid pitfalls when selling a timeshare unit, read the FTC's Selling a Timeshare Through a Reseller: Contract Caveats.
The Commission vote approving the proposed consent order against Pasquale Pappalardo was 4-0. The Commission vote approving the proposed consent order against Lisa Tumminia- Pappalardo was 3-1, with Commissioner Rosch voting in the negative. The orders were entered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The FTC would like to thank the Florida Attorney General's Office and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for their assistance in this case.
NOTE: These consent orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants that the law has been violated. Settlement orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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