CHICAGO (CBS) — An offer sounded too good to be true – in what should have been a victim’s first clue that something wasn’t right.
The offer came from a company claiming to be from Chicago, and presented prospects for a heavy profit for his timeshare.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov dug into it and found an elaborate scam, a local road to nowhere, and a man who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Timeshares can quickly go from heaven to headache. So when someone with a purported Chicago-based company called Intercontinental Realty called the owner of a Cancún, Mexico timeshare – saying they could sell if for $1,081,218 – he was interested.
But he was also skeptical.
“At the time, it sounds like a scam. It sounds like there’s something fishy,” the owner said. “You need to know upfront – I’m suspicious.”
But that employee started providing the owner – who does not want to be identified – with documents and guarantees that finally convinced him to go ahead with the deal.
“Next thing you know, we got a phone call that, ‘In order to process this thing, you need to pay a fee,'” the owner said.
The owner says the business sent him elaborate emails and documentation, but the requests for money went on and on – until the owner found himself out more than $300,000.
“Foolishly – I mean, I have to tell you, Dana – greed drove this thing. I kept – the little voice in the back of my head kept saying, ‘There’s something not right here,'” the owner said. “But that million dollars kept waving at me.”
Since the company’s website says it is located at 7 W. Madison St. in the Loop, the owner hired Chicago private investigator Joe McGreal to do some digging.
“Immediately within the first hour, I knew it was a scam,” McGreal said.
McGreal began talking with Intercontinental Realty’s supposed employees.
“I offered to meet with them. We set up three different meetings,” McGreal said. “They never showed.”
So McGreal went to 7 W. Madison St. – the address listed on Intercontinental Realty’s website.
“There are no real estate agents there,” McGreal said. “There’s no office there.”
CBS 2’s Kozlov checked out that address too. She found 7 W. Madison St. is a dorm for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kozlov confirmed with an SAIC spokesperson that no tenant or business called Intercontinental Reality is located there.
So she tried calling the number on the website for the business. There was a voicemail claiming to be for Intercontinental Reality, but no one returned our calls.
But it doesn’t end there. The documents in the owner’s case repeatedly reference funds being wired to or being handled in Mexico.
“Everything comes back to Mexico,” McGreal said.
So McGreal took the documents given to the owner to the Mexican Consulate. He says a consulate official confirmed they were forged.
“It looks legitimate, and it’s difficult for victims to determine that it’s fake,” McGreal said.
“It was a very, very elaborate scam,” the owner added.
And he is not the only victim. Seven other complaints have been filed with the Illinois Attorney General about Intercontinental Realty, and some of those victims are out thousands and thousands of dollars too.
“We’d like to make everyone aware of the scam,” McGreal said.
Both McGreal and the scammed owner believe there are many other victims out there. McGreal hopes they will come forward to help catch the scam artists.
He says Mexican Consulate officials are also investigating, but no one from the consulate replied to Kozlov’s emails or calls.