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ON YOUR SIDE: Missouri’s attorney general wins judgment against Springfield-based time share exit company

Eric Schmitt.
Eric Schmitt.(KY3)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 1:58 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:40 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced his office obtained a default judgement against Martin Management Group LLC and its owner and operator Steven Martin.

Martin Management, previously operating out of Springfield purported to provide timeshare-relief services to people across the country.

“Protecting Missouri’s consumers is one of my most important duties as Attorney General, and my Office’s Consumer Protection Section works around the clock to fulfill that duty,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “I’m pleased that my Office was able to obtain a default judgment against Steve Martin and Martin Management, and we will work diligently to ensure that Missourians who were scammed are refunded. It’s important for Missourians to remember, especially when dealing with timeshares, that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Investigators in the attorney general’s office argued in exchange for upfront payments, sometimes in excess of $10,000.00, Martin Management assured prospective clients it would negotiate with resort developers for a transfer or termination of the client’s timeshare obligations. Martin Management offered a money-back guarantee for their services. According to complaints received by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office from consumers across the country, after being paid, Martin Management failed to provide the promised timeshare-relief services or issue refunds. Instead, Martin Management continued to string along their clients by extracting even more money for “litigation,” “transfer,” or “liquidation” fees. All the while, consumers’ timeshare obligations remained outstanding, and many saw their credit scores crater as a result of the maintenance fee delinquencies incurred while waiting for Martin Management to provide the services it promised.

The judgment permanently enjoins Martin Management Group LLC and Steve Martin from offering and selling timeshare-relief services in the state of Missouri and awards $222,768.90 to the State, including $170,247.61 in restitution for Missourians and $52,521.29 in civil penalties and costs of prosecution and investigation. Attorney General Schmitt encourages citizens who have been scammed by a timeshare-relief company to file a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office by calling the Consumer Protection hotline at 800-392-8222 or submitting a complaint online at ago.mo.gov.

The Better Business Bureau investigated complaints about the company. They released this statement to KY3 News:

A timeshare exit company formerly based in Springfield, Missouri, which was the focus of a Better Business Bureau (BBB) consumer warning in October 2017, has been ordered to pay restitution of more than $170,000 after it was sued by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

Earlier this month, a default judgment was entered against Martin Management Group Inc., which is now based in Parkville, Mo. As part of the judgment, company owner Steven Albert Martin is barred from marketing, advertising, offering to sell, and selling timeshare interests or timeshare-exit services.

“We applaud the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and its efforts to help customers of this business,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO. “Consumers reported to BBB that they lost thousands of dollars after the business failed to deliver on its promises.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed suit against the business in Platte County Circuit Court in January 2020. The petition filed by the state alleged the business violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. The state alleged Martin Management Group Inc. falsely promised to provide timeshare relief services and falsely promised to issue refunds when services were not provided. The business was ordered to pay nearly a quarter of a million dollars in restitution and fines. Consumers will receive $170,247.61 in restitution. The court imposed a civil penalty of $26,000 and the defendant must pay the state just over $26,500 in fines and fees.

“I’m pleased that my office was able to obtain a default judgment against Steve Martin and Martin Management, and we will work diligently to ensure that Missourians who were scammed are refunded,” Schmitt said in a press release. “It’s important for Missourians to remember, especially when dealing with timeshares, that if is sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Martin Management Group Inc. has an “F” rating, the lowest on BBB’s scale, due to unanswered complaints and a serious underlying pattern of customer complaints. Since November 2016, BBB has received more than two dozen complaints and negative customer reviews about the company. Complainants told BBB the business failed to liquidate their timeshares, and that they had little contact with the business after signing contracts with the company. Among the victims who filed complaints with BBB was a Bethpage, New York, woman whose husband, a chief in the New York Fire Department, died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The woman told BBB she was trying to get a refund of $18,000 she paid the company to exit her from five timeshares in February 2017.

“No one (at Martin Management Group Inc.) lifted a finger,” the woman told BBB in 2017. “This has been a disaster.” The company moved to Parkville, a suburb of Kansas City, after the BBB issued its consumer warning.

BBB offers these tips on how to exit a timeshare holding:

● Research any business and its owners carefully before paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887.

● Contact the resort that originally sold you the timeshare to see if it has a deed-back program.

● Before paying anything, make sure you have a signed contract outlining what is to be done, a timetable and an explanation of what happens if the business or the consumer doesn’t comply with the agreement.

● Be wary of anyone claiming they have a buyer for your timeshare or who promises to rent your timeshare, especially if they ask for an upfront fee.

● Pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase later.

● If you feel you have been misled, file complaints with BBB and the state’s attorney general’s office.

● For more information about the timeshare exit industry, refer to a study BBB released in June 2019. About BBB BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB services to consumers are free.

BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.

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