Companies that offer to resell your timeshare may sound like a sure thing, but thousands of customers say they were ripped off. And state officials have done little to stop it.
Meridian Media Group
Opened on: Aug. 23, 2006
Location: 1280 Court St., Clearwater, 33756
Better Business Bureau rating: F
Business website: http://timeshareadvisormagazine.com/
Started in 2006 by Greg Crist, who later sold the company to Dan Zane, Meridian once relied on a magazine called Timeshare Advisor to publicize its clients' units.
Among the company's top salesmen for a time was James Gibson, who is named in several customer complaints lodged with the state attorney general. Gibson has been convicted of nine felonies in Oregon and Washington, according to state records, but never disclosed his criminal history to state regulators.
The company is still active, according to state records, but employees moved out of the Clearwater office in December, and the phone number on the website has been disconnected.
Name: Greg Crist , managing member
Crist said he sold his company to former employee Dan Zane in early 2010. He said it offered legitimate advertising, but he can't vouch for what happened to the company after he left.
Crist said he is starting another timeshare resale company that operates on a broker model, and doesn't require an upfront fee.
Name: Daniel Zane , managing member
Former employee of Meridian Media who bought the company from Greg Crist in early 2010. Zane declined to sit down for an interview, but did e-mail responses to several questions.
“We do everything possible to make customers happy,” Zane wrote in September. “When you are dealing with a high volume of people, complaints come.”
Zane did not reply to e-mails asking about the company's apparent closure in December.
Name: Rosey Kidd
Kidd says she was called in March 2011 by Meridian Media salesman James Gibson. Gibson told her he had a buyer for her timeshare in Las Vegas, and used religion to win her trust. "I'm a good Christian," she says he told her.
"I'm Hindu, but I know all about Christianity because I went to Catholic school," said Kidd, 69, a retired nurse who lives in Greenville, North Carolina. "They're good people. But not these guys. They're scammers."
When Kidd called back to complain after her timeshare didn't sell, she says, another Meridian salesman convinced her to spend another $499. She filed a complaint with the Florida Attorney General's Office. She has never sold her timeshare.
Meridian Media Group has generated 94 consumer complaints to the Florida Attorney General's Office since 2009. Search a database of Pinellas and Hillsborough county companies that have been listed in two or more complaints to the Florida Attorney General.
List of all the companies in this report
How we did this story
The Tampa Bay Times started investigating the timeshare resale industry in June 2011.
The newspaper reviewed more than 2,000 consumer complaints against Tampa Bay area companies and tracked down their offices across two counties in an attempt to interview owners and employees.
The Times interviewed more than 100 people, including company employees, victims and government officials who oversee or investigate timeshare resale companies. It also reviewed thousands of pages of court documents and licensing records and closely examined the criminal histories of employees at more than a dozen local resale companies with customer complaints.
The complaints reviewed are those recorded by the state Attorney General's Office, which operates a fraud "hotline" and accepts and categorizes complaints that come in by phone, email and letter.
Contact reporter Will Hobson to suggest further timeshare resale story ideas.
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