EAST ST. LOUIS – Jose Manuel Goyos, Jr., 27, of Jupiter, Fla.,, was sentenced today to 96 months in federal prison for his role in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme that stole $14.5 million from over 7,000 people throughout the United States and Canada, including dozens of victims within the Southern District of Illinois.
Stephen R. Wigginton, United States attorney for the Southern District, said Goyos pled guilty on Dec. 30, 2013, to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with telemarketing. He has been in federal custody since his arrest in early September of last year and will begin serving his sentence immediately.
Goyos was the registered agent and co-owner of C&G Marketing Associates, LLC, a Florida corporation which, in 2009, defrauded consumers across the continent using the fictitious name, Premier Timeshare Solutions. PTS telemarketers worked in an office building in West Palm Beach, Florida. From there, they placed phone calls to timeshare owners, falsely representing or implying that the company had found someone who wanted to buy the person’s timeshare.
In exchange for an advance fee that typically exceeded $1,000, the PTS telemarketers promised to handle all the details of the sale and send the victims the proceeds after closing.
Once the victims had paid the advance fee, however (usually by giving the telemarketer their credit card information), the fraudulent company simply pocketed the money. There were no interested buyers, the closings did not occur, and the timeshares were not resold.
“To discourage and defeat subsequent chargeback attempts, PTS sent victims written contracts to sign and return – contracts that made no mention of the promised sale and obligated the company merely to provide marketing and advertising services,” Wigginton said. “Because the original sales calls were not recorded, PTS could later claim that marketing and advertising was all that had ever been promised, and that
any contrary impression the victim may have formed – for instance, that there was a concrete offer for the customer’s unit or some genuine interest by a qualified buyer – was simply a misunderstanding. In fact, all of this was simply an act of thievery.”
Victims who called PTS to check on the status of their transactions were directed to customer service representatives, managed by Goyos, whose goal was to perpetuate the fraud by delaying and discouraging chargebacks and complaints. To accomplish that goal, representatives would lie to victims, assuring them that despite some phony, unexpected delay, their timeshare unit was still going to be sold. Repeat callers were given a series of bogus excuses, none of which had any basis in fact. By instilling a false sense of hope, PTS aimed to delay the chargeback process beyond the time that most credit card issuers allow for disputes, Wigginton said.
In pronouncing the sentence, David R. Herndon, chief judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, called timeshare resale fraud – an industry that recruits recovering drug addicts to steal from the financially vulnerable – “the most despicable scam in the world.”
Herndon also observed that Goyos was a bright young man who, had he not committed the crime, “probably would have had his picture on the cover of a business journal.” “Instead,” he remarked, “his picture’s being taken with numbers under his chin.”
As part of his sentence, Goyos was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. Due to the large number of victims and the lack of records showing which customers received refunds, restitution in the case was waived. When his prison sentence has been served, Goyos will spend three years on supervised release, during which time he will be prohibited from engaging in any employment that involves securities investment or otherwise places him in a fiduciary role. He will also not be allowed to do any telemarketing work without the express consent of the United States Probation Office.
This prosecution is one of nearly 50 timeshare resale fraud prosecutions brought in the Southern District of Illinois over the past four years. The case is part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Department of Agriculture. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nathan D. Stump.