Complaint: Fraud and deceit at the Time Share Division, El Cid Marina, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico
I am a diabetic with attendant problems connected with the disease. Specifically, I have impaired vision and I am scheduled for cataract surgery on June 26, 2008.
On April 8th, I attended a time share presentation at the El Cid Marina, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. The salesman assigned to me was one Alphonso Velasquez. When I was emphatic that I could not afford to purchase another time share, because I already own two others in Mazatlan, he brought in the "boss", Mr. Fernando Gonzales.
In short, Mr. Gonzales told me that he had a "perfect solution" for me. He would sell my other two timeshares and with the proceeds pay off 500,000 VIP points at El Cid. He said that would be a much better deal for me as I would pay out less in maintenance fees and I would still have some eleven weeks of vacation time to use. Because the points are flexible, I could also use them for airline tickets, car rental, etc. I would end up paying NOTHING but the $104 monthly maintenance payment, as the sale of the two current timeshares I owned would pay for the El Cid package. He would also send me a check for some $20,000 US which would be left over and due me after the package was paid. When I questioned him who specifically would send me the $20,000 check, he said he would. I asked him to put it in writing, but he said this was illegal in Mexico and he couldn't do it. He again stressed that he was an attorney and knew the legal requirements.
Thie offer of "combining" sounded reasonable to me. I told Mr. Gozales of my diabetic problems and he assured me that I had nothing to worry about as he would definitely take care of me and my concerns. Being a diabetic himself, he sympathized with my illness and gave me several twigs of NIM leaves to brew, and wrote out instructions on how to use the brew. When I again showed concern about the deal, telling him I really couldn't afford another payment on my retirement salary, he said that I was like his mother, prone to worry. He said that he was an attorney who represented a large and reputable company that took good care of its clients. He even swore on his mother's name and his rosary that I could trust what he was promising me.
He appeared trustworthy enough, but I primarily put my faith in EL CID, the large and reputable company that would surely not lend itself to deceit or fraud.
I signed what they asked me to sign, until they brought a form asking me for $10,400 down payment. Surprised, I said that Mr. Gonzales told me I would have to pay out NOTHING, and that I presently didn't have that amount of money. They called Mr. Gonzales back who said not to worry, this sum is only required to show serious intent and would come out in the wash. He again stressed that I would have to pay nothing but the monthly $104 maintenance payments. I then gave him my American Express credit card to charge that amount. At no time did I realize that they were opening an RCI credit account with Bank of America, and that they charged the down payment on the new card. I thought they used my American Express. I ALREADY HAVE TWO CHARGE ACCOUNTS with Bank of America, both with zero balances. Why would I authorize them to open another one? What I did fill out was an "information" sheet which I was asked to sign. It was this sheet they used to open the new account.
Some two weeks later, when my friend, Elizabeth Khosla, who was considering a purchase as well, told me that there was nothing in the contract that was promised me, I panicked. I knew that I could not afford a third time share, so I went to see Mr. Gonzales again. He repeated his promises in front of Elizabeth Khosla telling us that he already had prospective buyers for my Island Villas time share and that he already paid Jorge Cortes "Acapulco", $500 of his own money as a retainer for the sale of the eight weeks. He showed us a check stub for $500 , and called in Mr. Velasquez to verify his claim. Mr. Velasquez did indeed attest to Mr. Gonzales' veracity, but he looked obviously uncomfortable. Mr. Gonzales then absolutely refused to cancel the contract. He informed me that the contract was binding and that he has my signatures to attest to it. He was short and dismissive.
I spent the entire last week of my stay (we departed on May 10th) appealing the deceit perpetrated against me. As I would have ended up owing in all $52,000US that I absolutely could not afford, I went to the American consulate and the Mazatlan Department of Tourism where I was referred to the Profeco, Mr. Ruben Gonzales. I had to return to both places, thereby taking up my final week with this endeavor. The last time we saw Mr. Ruben Gonzales, (May 8th) he had an attorney from El Cid, Lic. Enrique Velarde Moreno, who told me that I could go and see Mr. Pedro De La Cruz at El Moro, the customer service manager for the time share division at El Cid.
I went to see Mr. De La Cruz the very same afternoon. For the first time I was apprised of the option of "voluntary surrender" of the contract. In short, I would be allowed to cancel the contract for the $52,000, but they would keep the $10,400 US for "liquidated damages. Mr. Cruz would not be swayed from this, despite my informing him of what actually happened. He did NOT use any strong arm tactics, but politely suggested that this would be my best option. He asked me to come back the following day (May 9th) when he would have the forms ready for me to sign.
I did this as I ran out of time. $10,400US was better than $52,000 US. I told Mr. De La Cruz that I would appeal this solution as it was based on an initial fraud. We flew home the next morning (May 10th)
Re the "liquidated damages":
Mr. Fernando Gonzales made available to us "free of charge" all inclusive accommodations at El Cid Marina beginning on May 20th. We decided to avail ourselves of this offer. Although we had paid for superior accommodations at the Island Resorts and Villas, consisting of three bedrooms, 4 baths, laundry room, full kitchen, patio, balcony with a spa tub, etc., the resort had a tiny pool. Elizabeth and I are both swimmers so the larger pools at El Cid decided us. On May 4th when we were packed and ready to leave El Cid Marina for our paid accommodations at the Mayan Palace Regency, Mr. Gonzales offered us another free week (not all inclusive) telling us that the Mayan Palace rooms were "horrible". This was another deceit - actually, the accommodations at the Palace turned out to be far superior to what we had at the Marina.
Mr. De La Cruz said that the above accommodations provided would be used as "liquidated damages". It appeared that he used the highest amount in valuing this package. When I protested that we had far from five-star accommodations (I for example, had a cheap plastic table and chairs in my room, the hood vent above the stove lacked all buttons, having only holes, the refrigerator wouldn't cool and when turned up, leaked) I didn't complain, because it was, after all, "free".
The worst part was the bedbug infestation. Although we were on the seventh floor, I attributed the bites to mosquitoes as I slept with open windows on top of the bed. But when I turned on the air conditioning and finally slept under covers (beginning May 3rd) I was severely bitten on my lower body and legs.
When I called the concierge, they brought some Solarcaine which Olga of housekeeping used on my legs, and she also sprayed insecticide on the bed base and around the room. The mattress was replaced and the bed remade. The housekeeper, Rita, also came up to help. All were tremendously nice and concerned people! Unfortunately the damage was done. Severe itching, red splotches from the bites, pain from the infested sites, etc. resulted in looking as if I had the measles or other infectious disease. It didn't do much for my social life!
Although I took several dated photos in the room of my legs, unfortunately Mr. De La Cruz didn't seem to be inclined to consider this in his "liquidated damages". In the US, any top notch hotel would have cancelled all charges under such conditions, and even provided further incentives to return. It was quite the opposite at El Cid. I was charged $10,400 US in "liquidated damages", despite the fact that this was the result of fraud and deceit. I can only conclude that these practices are condoned by the El Cid Time share division.
I would, however, like to contrast the hotel itself with the Time Share Division. At the hotel I could not have asked for better staff. I commend them enthusiastically. Even Mr. Gomez, the manager, was kind enough to offer to pay for medical attention when he saw the bites I sustained. However, I had already made an appointment with my own physician at home, since as a diabetic I must be careful of infections.
I have been writing to individuals who might be of help:
Gerente de Ventas Marina y Club de Yates
Telfono: 01-c669-913-3333 ext: 6580
JORGE GOMEZ FERNANDEZ (EL CID Marina Hotel manager)
Director de Ventas Bienes Races
Telfono: 01-669-913-3333 ext. 3428 3429
Pedro De La Cruz (011 52(669)913 3333 Ext.3444 Time Share Division Customer Service Manager
Javier Paez (vice-president Mazatlan Hotel Association)
Carlos Berdegue (CEO El Cid Resorts)
Gabriel Tostado (Mazatlan Department of Tourism)
I sincerely believe that I was taken advantage of due to my vision impairment. I am a retired senior citizen with a small income and cannot afford to lose the borrowed $10,400. Since this sum was assessed under false pretenses and fraudulent claims, I contend and maintain that El Cid time shares should rebate the $10,400 that they charged on a new Bank of America account that I promptly closed when I became aware of it.
In summary, I am a responsible consumer. I pay the bills I incur on time. I do not purchase above my means. The two other time shares I own are paid in full. If this were a case of buyer's remorse, I could understand El Cid retaining the 20% down payment, despite this being far too high. However, this is NOT a case of remorse. This is a case of fraud against a visually impaired senior individual. This fraud was perpetrated with full awareness on the part of the Time Share staff at El Cid Marina, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, and I therefore, feel entitled to a full refund of $10,400. If this is not forthcoming within 30 days, I am also asking for a refund of all moneies spent on cabfare, mailings, time lost, and vacation spoiled in the amount of $6500 US.
Washington, District of Columbia