CHICAGO (CBS) — An offer seemed too good to be true – in what should have been a victim’s first clue that something was wrong.
The offer came from a company claiming to be from Chicago and presented the prospect of big profits for its timeshare.
CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov dug in and found an elaborate scam, a local road to nowhere, and a man who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Timeshare can quickly go from heaven to headache. So when someone with an alleged Chicago-based company called Intercontinental Realty called the owner of a timeshare in Cancún, Mexico — saying they could sell if for $1,081,218 — he was interested.
But he was also skeptical.
“At the time, it looks like a scam. Looks like there’s something fishy going on,” the owner said. “You should know from the start – I’m suspicious.”
But this employee began to provide the owner – who does not want to be identified – with documents and guarantees that finally convinced him to go ahead with the case.
“The next thing you know, we got a phone call saying, ‘To process this thing, you have to pay a fee,'” the owner said.
The owner says the company sent him elaborate emails and documents, but the demands for money continued, until the owner uncovered 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 something wrong here,'” the owner said. “But that million dollars kept beckoning me.”
Since the company’s website says it’s located at 7 W. Madison St. in the Loop, the owner hired Chicago private eye Joe McGreal to do some research.
“Immediately within the first hour I knew it was a scam,” McGreal said.
McGreal began speaking with the alleged Intercontinental Realty employees.
“I offered to meet them. We had three different meetings,” McGreal said. “They never showed up.”
So McGreal went to 7 W. Madison St. — the address listed on the Intercontinental Realty website.
“There are no real estate agents there,” McGreal said. “There is no office there.”
CBS 2’s Kozlov also verified this address. She found 7 W. Madison St. to be a dormitory for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kozlov confirmed with a SAIC spokesperson that no tenants or companies called Intercontinental Reality are there.
So she tried calling the number on the company’s website. There was a voicemail claiming to be for Intercontinental Reality, but no one returned our calls.
But it does not stop there. The documents in the owner’s case repeatedly refer to funds being transferred or managed in Mexico.
“It all comes down 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 legit and it’s hard for victims to determine it’s fake,” McGreal said.
“It was a very, very elaborate scam,” the owner added.
And he’s not the only victim. Seven other complaints were filed with the Illinois Attorney General about Intercontinental Realty, and some of those victims also lost thousands and thousands of dollars.
“We would like to inform everyone about the scam,” McGreal said.
McGreal and the scammed owner believe there are many more victims. McGreal hopes they will show up to help catch the crooks.
He says Mexican consulate officials are also investigating, but no one from the consulate has responded to Kozlov’s emails or calls.