A timeshare enables travelers to own a percentage of a vacation condo or townhome and to access that unit for a specific time period each year. In some cases, timeshare owners will rent out their weeks to other parties when they do not plan to use them. Reselling timeshares is also a common practice. Throughout all of these activities, different types of timeshare fraud can take place. Whether you are a timeshare developer or a timeshare owner, you may be facing serious charges of fraud related to your timeshare property. A conviction of federal-level charges can result in substantial and life-changing punishments. With this in mind, building a strong defense against the charges with a qualified timeshare fraud defense lawyer is essential.
Understanding Timeshare Fraud
The unfortunate reality is that the timeshare industry is riddled with fraudulent practices. This means that even those who are conducting business ethically may be subject to a fraud investigation and even brought up on timeshare fraud charges. There are many examples of timeshare-related fraud occurring, but you should be aware that there is not an actual charge for timeshare fraud. Instead, you may be facing charges for crimes like mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, racketeering and conspiracy. These are federal criminal offenses that carry hefty penalties. Often, the Federal Trade Commission initiates an investigation into a timeshare fraud claim, but other law enforcement agencies may be involved as well.
The wide range of potential charges that a defendant may face is directly associated with the fact that this type of fraud comes in many forms. For example, a bogus timeshare offer or a deceptive marketing message conveyed through the U.S. Postal Service is a form of mail fraud. If the offer or message is conveyed via a text message, an email or another type of electronic means, the charge of wire fraud may stand. Racketeering may be charged when a coordinated scheme is established to repeatedly commit fraud. With these and other examples of timeshare-related fraud charges, a person or company being investigated for such crimes should seek counsel from an experienced defense attorney.
Penalties for Timeshare Fraud
The Federal Trade Commission Act specifically prohibits deceptive and unfair commerce acts. Through the FTC Act, the FTC is permitted to pursue restitution for impacted consumers. It can also seek an injunction and take civil action. In addition to these potential outcomes of timeshare fraud, the individual or company may be tried in a federal court for other serious charges. The penalties for these charges vary considerably.
For example, if you are convicted of a racketeering charge, your punishment could include a large fine, up to 20 years in prison and the requirement to return all profits and property gained through illegal activities. Wire fraud can be punished by a $250,000 fine, up to 20 years in prison and up to three years of supervised release from prison. Felony mail fraud is punished with up to a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison. You should be aware that many defendants who are found guilty of timeshare fraud face multiple charges, and the sentences could be served consecutively.
Defense Strategies for Timeshare Fraud
While timeshare fraud is a serious matter and a conviction could come with devastating penalties, there are several defense strategies that your attorney may employ to obtain justice in court or before the case reaches a courtroom. For example, an attorney may argue that evidence was collected through an illegal search and is not admissible. In some cases, the attorney may attempt to prove that fraud did not actually take place or that the fraud was not knowingly and willfully committed. Keep in mind that there may be opportunities for the attorney to work for reduced charges or for a plea bargain before the matter reaches the courtroom using these or other defense strategies.
Consult with a Defense Attorney
The possibility of spending many years in federal prison and paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines is real if you are facing pending or active timeshare fraud charges. However, effective defense strategies can be used to produce a more favorable outcome for you. Your experienced criminal defense attorney can work to achieve the most optimal outcome available under the law, but he or she will need ample time to prepare and execute the defense strategy. To learn more about the strength of your case and the defense options available, schedule a consultation with a fraud defense attorney today.
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