Mexican Cartels Swindled over $300 Million in Elaborate Property Scams

( – In April 2023, the US Treasury Department sanctioned 19 Mexican companies, a fugitive drug trafficker, and six other individuals for their connections to a drug cartel-led timeshare fraud network. More than a year later, fraudulent schemes continue to claim victims. A recent FBI report confirmed that cartels operating out of Mexico have swindled American citizens out of more than $300 million.

On June 7, the FBI published an article on its website detailing the targeting of Americans in timeshare fraud scams by Mexican cartels. The notice warned timeshare owners that those criminal organizations target older American timeshare owners.

Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Roberts noted that those “fraudsters aim to such their victims dry,” resulting in “devastating consequences” to their financial future. He said the bureau had linked several organizations to the timeshare schemes, including the Sinaloa, Gulf, and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

The FBI notice discussed the schemes. The fraudsters conduct extensive research on their potential victims to determine the best approach to take with them. Then, they create phony documents and impersonate personnel from “trustworthy institutions to frighten their targets into complying with their demands.

Roberts said the scam involves three distinct phases.

The scammers pretend to be Mexican-based third-party timeshare brokers or US sales representatives and urge their targets to invest in share certificates for their property, rent it out, or exit their timeshare.

After waiting a few weeks/months, the fraudsters reapproach their victims posing as workers at law firms who say they are working to help other targets recoup their losses from the first phase of operations. They ask for money to cover the necessary expenses to collect the victims’ lost money.

The criminal gangs impersonate international law enforcement entities like the Mexican government’s Financial Intelligence Unit and tell victims of the first two phases that their payments were “linked” to “terrorist operations” or “money laundering schemes.” Then, they threaten to prosecute them unless they pay additional money to cover the costs to clear them of wrongdoing.

The FBI notice concluded by telling potential victims to avoid answering calls from unfamiliar numbers. It also advised them to refuse to pay any upfront money to individuals contacting them about their timeshares and to never “sign, notarize, or send” any legal documents via email.

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