August 21, 2003
HUD MOVES TO SHUT DOWN FRAUDULENT LAND SALES SCHEME
Hundreds of seniors victimized in phony timeshare scam
WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced a lawsuit against a group of developers, accusing them of using a fraudulent land sales scheme to bilk an estimated $25 million from more than a thousand people, primarily senior citizens. In a 32-page civil complaint filed by the Justice Department this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the government charges the developers, operating under the name "Buyers Source," with violating the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act and is seeking an injunction to immediately shut down their operations.
HUD claims Buyers Source, and other similarly named businesses, sold more than 1,000 parcels of land located in Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri at prices that far exceeded their value, sometimes by as much as 3,000 percent. The Department's complaint alleges Buyers Source approached owners of timeshares with an offer to purchase their shares - in exchange, the victims agreed to purchase lots of land at greatly inflated prices with the false promise of tremendous profit and even gifts.
"Many of these victims worked their entire lives to build security for their later years," said John C. Weicher, HUD Assistant Secretary for Housing -Federal Housing Commissioner. "Now a company with a fraudulent scheme is attempting to take all that away. HUD, in conjunction with the Justice Department and State Attorneys General, will do everything it can to protect consumers from those who would steal their share of the American Dream."
HUD is seeking to shut down all operations of Buyers Source and its affiliated businesses, seize the company's profits, and freeze the personal assets of several defendants, including suspected ringleaders, Lannie "Mex" Campbell and Henry Montgomery.
HUD's complaint paints a complex picture of how Buyers Source and its salespersons operated. It began with Buyers Source obtaining mailing lists of persons who owned timeshares for several years. Buyers Source would then send timeshare owners a post card offering to buy their timeshares "for top dollar" and "without any tricks or gimmicks." Consumers would be directed to meet with Buyers Source salespersons in motel rooms where they were told they must purchase a lot from Buyers Source. The company would sell plots of land for as much as $32,000, after paying only $1,000 to $5,000 to acquire the lots only weeks earlier.
When victims of this timeshare exchange expressed concerns that they could not afford the property, Buyers Source's salespersons used high-pressure sales tactics and promised consumers the lots were such a good value, they would earn a significant profit within 18 months; in the meantime, the victims were told to use the proceeds from the sale of their timeshares to make payments on the lots. HUD estimates that the average consumer in this scheme would have paid $60,000 in principal and interest for a lot worth between $1,000-8,000.
The complaint also alleges that Buyers Source also failed to register the properties with HUD, and failed to give consumers property reports that describe the condition of the lots, as required under the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act.
The North Carolina Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division first discovered this fraudulent operation and HUD's subsequent investigation quickly found the abusive operation specifically targeted senior citizens living in several states. The subdivisions in which Buyers Sources sold lots are: Sugarmill Woods near Homosassa Springs, Florida; Savannah Lakes Village, near McCormick, South Carolina; Apple Valley, near Howard, Ohio; Holiday Island near Eureka, Arkansas; Rayburn Country in Jasper County, Texas; and Valley View Village South, near Branson, Missouri.
Buyers Source is based in the Tidewater, Virginia area. Other affiliated businesses and individuals named in the complaint include: Belmont Properties, Inc. of Chesapeake Virginia; One Source Equity, Inc. of Ohio; Island Realty, LLC of Eureka, Arkansas; Henry Montgomery and his wife, Susan Smothers of Howard, Ohio; and, Lannie Campbell and his wife, Susan Gard of Chesapeake, Virginia. Others include former NFL football player Bill Elko, Mike Durham, Chris Montgomery, Darrell Brooks, Gregory Sanjurjo, JoAnne Barros, Patrick Campbell, George Haydu, Leon Lucarelli (aka Leon Masterson), Beverly McPherson, Dawn Mock, Sandy Williams and Jeff Votaw.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet.