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A man who pleaded guilty to a three-year timeshare scam was sentenced Monday to three years and 10 months in prison.
Court documents show Brendan J. Hawkins, 47, transferred at least 230 individual timeshare units from 19 resorts over three years, scamming resorts out of more than $500,000 through a scheme he operated in Williamsburg.
Hawkins owned and operated Goodbye Timeshare LLC on Bypass Road in Williamsburg, establishing it in 2010 and shutting it down at the end of 2013.
He advertised his company as being able to transfer timeshare units the original owners could not sell, U.S. District Attorney Dana J. Boente wrote in federal court documents.
He hired sales teams to make presentations — often to elderly people — charged owners three times the annual maintenance fees for transferring their property, recruited various nominees and straw owners to receive the transfers in exchange for $25 to $35 per property transferred.
On Monday, he was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $546,904 to the 19 resorts from which he scammed.
“Multiple steps, individuals and methods were used to execute the scheme and prevent its discovery,” Boente wrote in court papers. “It was certainly no average mail fraud scheme.”
Hawkins and his staff recruited new straw owners to replace ones that had been red flagged by resorts in order to continue the scheme, Boente said.
Hawkins, who has no prior criminal convictions, has been in the travel, tourism or home business industry for more than 20 years.
“This was a crime where the defendant benefited largely by preying on the need of elderly individuals to get rid of an asset that had annual dues — to the benefit of the defendant,” Boente said.
His attorney Fernando Groene said Hawkins engaged in the scheme because his “recognition that timeshare resorts were exploiting their timeshare owners, who were desperate to end their contractual obligations but were unable to do so.” He argued in court papers at the time of the offense, there was “no clear industry guidance” regulating timeshare transfers to individuals.
Hawkins hired an attorney from a Williamsburg law firm to help him conduct the transactions, Groene said. Hawkins ended the scheme when legislation was passed to regulate the industry in 2013.
“Beyond his rationalizations for why he engaged in fraud, which suggest that the defendant does not fully appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct, the defendant gives rather short shrift to the offense which brings him before the Court,” Boente said. “The defendant seems to claim that this activity represents an aberration from an otherwise lawful life.”
The FBI began investigating the case in 2014, and Hawkins pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in December.