Two Convicted In Time Share Fraud

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A federal jury in Boston found two men guilty Friday for their role in a time-share boiler room scam that bilked more than 38,000 consumers out of $15.4 million, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Joel Epstein, 54, of Deerfield Beach, FL, and John Handel, 51, of Yarmouth, MA, were convicted on multiple counts of wire fraud and money laundering. According to prosecutors, Epstein and Handel were part of fraud ring that established a series of dummy companies in Florida and Texas and offered to buy timeshares from consumers if they paid for a $399 appraisal.

Consumers who gave their credit card numbers and were billed for appraisal either never received offers for their timeshares or received offers that were well below the market value. Handel was charged with signing the bogus appraisals, receiving $5 for each report he signed, while Epstein was charged with the financial end of the scheme and laundering money.

Seven others, including Donald Gonczy, who prosecutors said was the ringleader of the scheme, pleaded in the case and are awaiting sentencing in September and October. Epstein faces a maximum 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines for each of five counts of money laundering, while the other defendants five years in prison and $250,000 in fines in addition to paying restitution to consumers.

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