Guilty Plea in $12M Cold-Call Time-Share Scheme

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A Florida man has pleaded guilty to participating in a cold-call time-share appraisal scheme that netted $12 million over four years and involved more than 20,000 victims.

Peter Train, 58, of Deerfield Beach pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy and 22 counts of fraud at a hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge William G. Young in Boston. Train is among 11 people indicted in the case.

According to the indictment, the scheme involved a complex network of false-front companies and phony offers. The scam artists, claiming to be representatives of time-share-buying companies, would contact consumers, offering to buy their time share if they obtained a $400 appraisal, authorities said.

Consumers would be directed to a referral company called Multi-State Listing Service, also part of the scheme, which would pass victims on to one of several purported independent appraisal firms, according to the indictment. The appraisal firms were run by accomplices, and they collected credit card numbers for the purpose of billing consumers, authorities said.

For $400, consumers got a two-page report, which was printed off a database for a cost of about $25 each, according to the indictment. Afterward, the supposed time-share-buying company from the first part of the scheme would lose interest and cease contact with the consumer.

Only 12 consumers ever closed a deal with one of the time-share-buying companies, the U.S. attorney's office said. Train ran one of the companies, Resort Investment Trust, and had 20 agents making cold calls for him.

Train faces a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment and $250,000 for each charge against him. His sentencing is scheduled for June 6, 2002.

Florida resident Donald Gonczy, accused of being the operation's ringleader, is being held in the Netherlands Antilles pending extradition to the United States. Several of Gonczy's children, family and friends are accused of taking part in the scheme.

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