Consumers with a combined loss of nearly $56,000 helped launch a BBB investigation into timeshare company Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC. BBB’s investigation began when Sandra Bryant-Stephenson of Arkansas filed a complaint against Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC while mentioning convicted former Crystal City attorney/city manager James Jonas. According to Bryant-Stephenson, she attended a seminar hosted by Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC in August 2016. She was invited to the seminar after a representative called her and claimed Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC could rid her of the monthly maintenance fees associated with the two timeshares she owned. At the seminar, Bryant-Stephenson signed a contract to transfer ownership of her two timeshares to Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC, thus eliminating her maintenance fees. In exchange, Bryant-Stephenson claimed she would receive RCI points from a third-party company, which allowed her to exchange the points for vacation time at resorts around the world. Bryant-Stephenson says she paid $24,692 upfront for Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC’s services. Once charged, Bryant-Stephenson said she could never get ahold of the company’s representatives and continued to pay for her maintenance fees and timeshare. Additionally, she claims she never received any RCI points. “Once the money was posted, [Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC] wouldn’t answer my calls and it went straight to their voicemail. No one would return my calls,” Bryant-Stephenson said. After two months of constant calls to several numbers provided by Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC, Bryant-Stephenson’s call was answered by a woman who transferred her to James Jonas. Unknown to Bryant-Stephenson, Jonas was indicted in February 2016 for the federal crimes of conspiracy to commit bribery and three substantive federal programs bribery charges. He was later found guilty in June 2017 of 14 counts of various federal charges related to bribery and wire fraud. Additionally, Jonas resigned practicing in law in Texas on September 19, 2017 in lieu of disciplinary action against him.BBB’s investigation uncovered that Austin-based lawyer James Jonas, who also used a San Antonio address for his law firm, matched the address listed for Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC on the contract signed by Bryant-Stephenson. Additionally, BBB found Jonas posted a positive review on Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC’s Google page and that Jonas is Facebook friends with Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC’s owner John Park Howard. BBB confirmed Howard is the principal owner through Texas Secretary of State filings. According to Bryant-Stephenson, Jonas promised he would deliver on the services Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC agreed upon. Jonas’s first action was a letter he sent on October 20, 2016 to Bryant-Stephenson’s credit card company. BBB obtained a copy of this letter and it stated Bryant-Stephenson was a client of Jonas. He requested the company remove what he claimed was an authorized charge of $82.67. The charge was part of the monthly maintenance fees Bryant-Stephenson paid for her timeshares. Next, Jonas told Bryant-Stephenson to close the account she used to pay her other timeshare maintenance fees.Both actions by Jonas resulted in Bryant-Stephenson paying two months’ worth of maintenance fees, along with late fees. Additionally, Jonas requested the credit card company send statements to his office in San Antonio, without Bryant-Stephenson’s consent. By November, Bryant-Stephenson was fed up and requested her $24,692 refund.“I had been pressuring Jonas to get something done and he kept telling me, ‘Something will get done, it will get it done.’”Jonas then informed Bryant-Stephenson he would be contacting a third-party company out of Missouri for assistance on her case. The company, along with an additional third-party company out of Florida, contacted Bryant-Stephenson and informed her they wanted to transfer the title of her timeshare out of her name, thus ending her payments towards her maintenance fees. However, Bryant-Stephenson informed BBB that neither business could assist her. Eventually, Bryant-Stephenson recovered the $24,692 she lost after disputing the charge with her credit card company. Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC never responded to the BBB complaint filed by Bryant-Stephenson. BBB has received additional complaints against Resort Consumers Advocates, LLC, like Bryant-Stephenson, consumers claim an inability to transfer ownership of their timeshares while continuing to pay for maintenance fees, after paying Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC thousands of dollars upfront.BBB made several attempts to contact Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC to address its unanswered complaints, and to request clarification regarding the company’s physical location and affiliations with several other entities mentioned in consumer complaints. Thus far, the only correspondence BBB has ever received from Resort Consumer Advocates, LLC came when James Jonas responded to one of the complaints with “This person is a nut case…”If you’re looking to rid yourself of a timeshare you own, BBB has advice on steps you can take:Be wary of timeshare seminars with big promises. Be cautious with deals that sound too good to be true, especially from businesses you’re unfamiliar with and approach you first. Companies may try to convince you the deal won’t last long and that you must act fast, but don’t fall for it. Take your time and research the business. Don’t agree to anything over the phone or online; ask for all information in writing. Don’t rush into the process. Selling your timeshare is like selling any other piece of real estate. However, before you sell make sure to check with your resort to determine if there are any restrictions, limits or fees that could affect your ability to sell or transfer ownership. Make a checklist of all paperwork associated with your timeshare like contact information for the resort, amount and due date for your maintenance fees, a copy of your deed, etc. Use legitimate methods for selling your timeshare. Contact the company that manages the property for your timeshare or work with a licensed real estate company who can help advertise your timeshare, and ask how much they charge. You can try to sell your timeshare yourself by advertising your property on public sites. If you find a buyer, you will have to go through a process similar to selling a home, which includes drafting a contract and using a closing company to help process the transfer. Be cautious when using a timeshare resale service. Look out for red flags like unsolicited contact from a reseller who claims eager buyers are waiting to buy your property or who request upfront payment. Create a checklist before you sign a contract. Before signing on the dotted line, get the details of the terms and conditions of the contract. This should include the service the company is performing, fees, commissions, and any other cost you must pay.ABOUT BBB®: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which serves 105 counties and has offices in Austin, Bryan, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Midland, San Antonio and Waco.