Florida man gets 14 years for running time share scheme; 54 victims from southern Illinois

(MCT) —A Florida man was sentenced Friday in federal court for bilking thousands of time share owners out of fees, including more than 50 victims in Southern Illinois.

Brian Christopher Morris, 46, of Boynton Beach, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, five years of supervised release, fined $1,000, and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment, said U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton in a news release.

Morris pleaded guilty in February 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with telemarketing. Morris and others were involved in a telemarketing scam that bilked more than 22,000 victims of $30 million, victimizing consumers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, all 10 Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territory of Canada. There were at least 54 victims in 28 counties in the Southern District of Illinois.

Morris was a manager of Universal Marketing Solutions and later Creative Vacation Solutions in Palm Beach County, Florida. In the scheme that began in October 2007 and continued through at least January 2010, telemarketers placed cold calls to timeshare owners and then falsely represented that their company had actual buyers for the owners' timeshare property.

Telemarketers, supervised by Morris and others, then solicited advanced fees of up to several thousand dollars from each victim in purported closing costs that they promised would be refunded to the owner once the closing on the property occurred. Many time share owners were told that their closings were scheduled within the next 60 to 90 days. Despite collecting fees from 22,000 victims, these companies were not successful in selling a single timeshare unit. Defendants and their co-conspirators simply pocketed the closing costs, the indictment alleged.

Multiple other people were charged in connection with the telemarketing scam.