By Gregory Crist,
National Timeshare Owners Association
Uri Fried, the notorious self-acclaimed creator of the timeshare “Viking Ship” is now serving 366 days in federal prison for failing to report income derived from “The Timeshare Company” and “The Timeshare Group” to the Internal Revenue Service between 2008 and 2009 in the amount of $1,980,035.
U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson sentenced Fried to prison in addition to accepting a settlement agreement with the IRS for $706,636. Although Fried and his attorneys requested probation in exchange for cooperation, Judge Peterson denied that request, stating; “A prison sentence was necessary to promote respect for the law and to deter others who may be inclined to cheat on their taxes.”
Go Directly To Jail
With no “Get Out of Jail Free” card, Mr. Fried will now have plenty of time to prepare for another case filed against him by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (“WI DOJ”). In Case #2015CX48, the State of Wisconsin seeks permanent injunction, civil forfeiture and restitution paid to victims both in Wisconsin and nationwide for the alleged fraudulent transfer of tens of thousands of timeshare intervals by Fried and his companies.
Fried’s “transfer” scheme included false and misleading direct mail advertising to induce timeshare owners into using his “disposal” service. No less than 6 million postcards were sent to individual owner residences, beginning in 2012. The solicitation stated that owners could be free of their timeshare and legal obligations quickly and easily, directing owners to a toll free number and website address. The website included videos and other inducements whereby the company would agree to fully assume the future responsibilities pertaining to the ownership of the timeshare in exchange for a fee of around $600 and offering a full “100% Money Back Guarantee.”
Note: “Fried has processed tens of thousands of timeshare transfers into his ‘Viking Ship’ LLCs.” — WI DOJ.
Fried knew that his Viking Ship LLCs already owed a large amount of annual fees or other obligations of ownership on the thousands of transfers already performed, but continued to advertise that he could provide quick and easy transfer services. Several timeshare resorts, management companies and HOAs had sent Fried and his associates letters stating that they would not honor any transfer requests into Fried’s companies. In order to circumvent these refusals, Fried would change company names before making new transfer requests to throw off suspicious staffers at resorts. He even had employees create false names of companies and call resorts representing to be those persons and using false, deceptive and misleading statements to gain transfers.
Court documents reflect how Fried and his employees would communicate via email regarding how timeshares would be placed into newly created entities to prevent HOAs and management companies from discovering Fried’s practices of sending timeshares into default. His employees knew that the LLCs were not likely to pay the future obligations they incurred by receiving ownership of the properties. Fried’s expectation was that if the transfer was successful, the LLC would likely default on its obligations to the resort.
Many resorts and HOAs refused to acknowledge transfers
Once resort administrative personnel became familiar with the pattern and practices of Fried’s LLCs, they began to refuse to transfer properties into his company’s names. Fried would call these “rogue resorts” and keep close track of them, maintaining an up-to-date list. He would also share this list with his “referral partners”. One of the lists included the names of 124 resorts and management companies.
Transcriptions from a private civil action involving Fried, a major developer and its collection company detail exactly how Fried would elude companies that tried to block his transfers. Fried explained that if the resort would not acknowledge the transfer, that he would just open up a new LLC.
Consequences to Owners and Associations
Fried’s actions have reportedly embroiled many his customers in years-long disputes involving collection notices, late fees, penalties, and threats of litigation which could lead to a foreclosure. The massive group of defaults also negatively affects the remaining owner rosters of the property owner associations. Those owners are financially damaged by their absorbing the loss of income to the resort used to cover the necessary expenses and taxes. This leads to increased maintenance fees and special assessments. Court records show that Vacation Resorts International (VRI) is owed 1.3 million in unpaid obligation to the owners associations and resorts managed by that company. While Fried did refund some of his customers, he would not reimburse them for the consequential costs incurred by the company as a predictable and virtually inevitable result of their having used his service; for instance late fees and costs assessed by the resorts.
Investigations Underway into Fried’s Connection to Hollywood Beach Resort
At press time, the National Timeshare Owners Association and TimeSharing today are looking into the connection Fried has with the Hollywood Beach Resort in South Florida. In 2014, he attempted to rally other owners to his side during the election of HOA directors. The resort recently notified owners of the property of a massive assessment claiming that the approximately 75% of the units are in default status and that the remaining 25% would need to pick up the tab. Information on Fried’s plea to owners as well as the assessment, can be found here:
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