Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services arrested an Orlando resident for allegedly running a timeshare vacation scheme that defrauded 68 victims out of more than $258,000. Mark David Richmond, 45, allegedly targeted timeshare vacation property owners by brokering false real estate transactions.
“We will continue to pursue scam artists who prey on Floridians and visitors for their hard-earned money,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Anytime consumers receive a telemarketing call, they can help protect themselves by checking with our department to make sure the business is licensed and in good standing.”
According to the investigation, Richmond operated Ultimate Financing, Ultimate Finance, Continental Resorts, Resorts Unlimited, and Ultifin, which would require advance broker fees, closing costs, and other fees to facilitate the sale. Once the victims paid the requested costs and fees, the real estate transaction would not occur and the business would discontinue communicating with the victims.
The following tips help protect consumers from common scams:
- Before any purchase is made, research whether the telemarketer or telemarketing salesperson is registered with FDACS and if any complaints have been filed against them. This can be done by visiting FreshFromFlorida.com’s Business/Complaint Lookup or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).
- Do not give out bank account, credit card or personal information (date of birth, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number, etc.) over the telephone, unless it is to a known and trusted source.
- Request written information by mail about the organization itself, as well as the product, service, investment or charity.
Richmond was booked into the Orange County Jail today on the following charges:
- Aggravated White-Collar Crime in violation of §775.0844(5)(b), Florida Statutes, a felony of the first degree;
- Grand Theft in the First Degree in violation of §812.014(2)(a)1, Florida Statutes, a felony of the first degree;
- Organized Scheme to Defraud in violation of §817.034(4)(a)1, Florida Statutes, a felony of the first degree;
- Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device (68 Counts) in violation of §934.215, Florida Statutes, felonies of the third degree;
- Communications Fraud (68 Counts) in violation of §817.034(4)(b)1, Florida Statutes, felonies of the third degree;
- Commercial Telephone Solicitation Without License (68 Counts) in violation of §501.623(3), Florida Statutes, felonies of the third degree; and
- Unlicensed Real Estate Activity in violation of §475.42(1)(a), Florida Statutes, a felony of the third degree.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.