March 19, 2012
W5 Investigates the Shady Business of Vacation Clubs and Asks Who’s Protecting Canadians? - March 24 on CTV
– W5’s Victor Malarek reports on an undercover investigation into travel clubs, the fraudsters behind them and the dismissive government regulators who enable these clubs to operate –
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Toronto, ON (March 14, 2012) – This week’s all-new W5 investigates dubious vacation clubs. These clubs promise luxurious holidays combined with other perks like discounts for major purchases at a fraction of the cost. Premiering Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m. ET on CTV and CTV Mobile TV, “Paradise Lost” reveals victims of fraudulent travel schemes who share their stories of being bilked. In a dramatic undercover investigation, W5 confronts one fraudster convicted of misleading consumers in the operation of a travel club but who is already back in business seeking new “members.” W5 also confronts government agencies – trying to discover who should be cleaning up this fraudulent industry.
W5 also airs Sundays on CP24 at 1 p.m. ET, and at 7 p.m. on CTV Two, and then on demand on the CTV News Video Player at CTVNews.ca (visit CTV.ca for local listings).
For Matteo Gironi, Club Par Excellence was a dream come true – an affordable way to vacation in the sun. Initially drawn into the travel club with a prize of an all expenses paid trip for two to Las Vegas, Geroni and his wife, Monique, attended a compelling sales pitch offering amazing discounts on flights, hotels, car rentals – as well as huge savings on appliances, real estate and other major purchases. Deciding the discounts would offset the $9,000 membership fee, Geroni joined only to soon realize the prize and the discounts were a sham as Club Par Excellence closed its doors. Geroni contacted local police in Newmarket, who directed him to the RCMP, who told him his complaint was a matter for civil court. With the travel club seemingly out of business Geroni stopped payment on his membership. A few months later, loan collectors were threatening him for defaulting on the payments – Club Par had arranged a loan for him – allowing the company to escape with his membership fees but leaving Geroni with the debts. The dream had become a nightmare for Geroni and the hundreds of people like him who had been taken by Club Par Excellence and similar vacation club schemes.
W5’s Victor Malarek seeks answers from Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services: the agency that did crack down on vacation clubs, beginning in 2007 – including Club Par Excellence. Despite the Ministry’s efforts, operators of fraudulent travel clubs are undeterred and “morph” into new schemes, seeking new victims under new names. W5 goes undercover to confront the perpetrator of one of fraudulent travel club scheme convicted under Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, but who is discovered back in business at a new travel club.
W5 also reveals a method whereby fraudulent vacation clubs sign up prospective members for loans with legitimate financial institutions. Even when the scheme closes, the victimized members are left paying off on loans for memberships that were supposed to provide access to cheap vacations and services they will never receive. Once again, regulatory bodies seem helpless or unwilling to get involved. In a maddening circle of denial, Malarek seeks answers from Ontario’s Ministry of Finance, the province’s Consumer Protection Ministry and the federal Competition Bureau and discovers that this regulatory and enforcement “black hole” leaves Canadians at the mercy of travel club schemes.
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Anton Koschany, Executive Producer @koschany
With an ongoing commitment to covering tough, relevant stories with fair and responsible reporting, W5 is in its 46th season of investigative journalism. Hosted by Lloyd Robertson, the award-winning series is the most-watched documentary program in Canada. Anton Koschany is Executive Producer of W5. Brett Mitchell is Senior Producer. Wendy Freeman is President of CTV News.
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