A parade of former employees of a now-defunct Fort Lauderdale timeshare resale company has pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud clients who wanted to sell their unwanted vacation rentals.
Thirteen telemarketers from Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group have gone before federal judges in the last two months, each admitting to regularly lying to customers as they squeezed thousands of dollars out of them. Clients would put down as much as $10,000, believing the company had lined up buyers for their timeshares and the money was an administrative fee that would be refunded later, according to court records.
Federal authorities say the buyers never existed, describing Timeshare Mega Media as a “naked fraud.” The company — run by two convicted felons — took in about $5 million in less than a year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
FBI agents raided the company’s East Oakland Park Boulevard office in July 2010, and the FTC filed a lawsuit against Timeshare Mega Media a few months later.
Prosecutors have just gone after low-level employees of Timeshare Mega Media so far. Fifteen have been arrested in the last six months, and 13 have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, The fraud charge can carry up to five years in prison. All are awaiting sentencing.
The 14th employee has indicated he will cut a plea deal; the last employee died two months ago.
As of last month, the FBI investigation into Timeshare Mega Media was ongoing, with the agency at least looking at one of the men who allegedly masterminded the company — Pasquale “Posh” Pappalardo, according to court filings. Pappalardo, 59, served more than six years in federal prison in the mid-1990s on drug, firearms and counterfeit money charges.
FTC officials have alleged Pappalardo founded the company with Joseph “Joey” Crapella. Crapella, 45, spent nearly eight years in a Florida prison after being convicted in 2000 of racketeering and grand theft in a scheme involving the sale and stocking of vending machines, court records show.
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