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Thu June 6, 2013
Olympia couple snared in dragnet of timeshare scams
The state’s attorney general says an Olympia couple ripped off thousands of people, including about 1,500 in Washington, in a series of timeshare and travel scams. He’s suing the couple as part of a nationwide crackdown.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson says Jonathan and Christine Gibbs set up dozens of shell companies to couch their scam, which usually worked like this: they’d allegedly bait people who own timeshare vacation properties, but want to unload them. Prosecutors say the Gibbses would promise to sell the timeshares, and extract big upfront fees for doing so. To top it off, according to the lawsuit, the Gibbses would then take control of the properties, fail to pay any maintenance and operation costs, all while keeping the original owners in the dark.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Erwin says this and related schemes brought in about $70 million.
“You get them to a hotel room and then apply pressure tactics. The only reason those folks came is because of deceptive advertising, You do have a legitimate right to offer this business, but you don’t get to use deceptive advertising, deceptive sales pitches, and then not tell consumers at the end of the day that you’re taking title,” Erwin says.
Jonathan and Christine Gibbs are said to have orchestrated some 30,000 timeshare transfers, as well as other schemes involving outfits like phony travel clubs. They did not return emails seeking comment, and a phone number listed on their web site was disconnected. Several hours after the attorney general’s announcement, their web sites went offline.
The lawsuit is part of a concerted crackdown on timeshare cons, and coincides with civil and criminal actions in 27 states and seven countries.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Gibbses are said to have rented out timeshares they obtained through their businesses.