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Glen Ivy Offices Raided in Time-Share Probe : Investigation: More than 100 agents search for evidence of fraud in alleged overselling of resorts.

December 11, 1991|GREGORY CROUCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CORONA — More than 100 state and local investigators raided the offices of Glen Ivy Financial Group, the nation's largest operator of time-share resorts, early Tuesday in search for evidence of fraud in the alleged overselling of some resorts.

The Riverside County district attorney's office served search warrants on the company at its Corona headquarters and on two company executives at home in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation of the controversial firm.

No arrests were made Tuesday but several Glen Ivy employees were subpoenaed to appear before the county grand jury. Sources close to the investigation said the grand jury is considering filing grand theft, forgery and other charges against the company.

"We have probable cause to believe that fraudulent activity may have been committed in the sale of time shares," said Jay Orr, supervisor of special prosecutions for the Riverside County district attorney.

Glen Ivy is familiar to many Southern Californians. Its telemarketers call about 100,000 people a month to sell time shares, and employees often pass out brochures at events such as California Angels baseball games and air shows. The company routinely runs contests to attract customers.

The 16-year-old firm operates 24 time-share resorts in eight states and has 60,000 customers. Time-share contracts give people the right to spend a specific period every year--usually a week--at a group of resort properties.

Early Tuesday morning, Glen Ivy's Corona complex was cordoned off with yellow police tape as investigators began seizing truckloads of customer files and company documents. Private computer experts hired by investigators began sifting through Glen Ivy's extensive computer system.

Glen Ivy, which has not been charged with any wrongdoing, said in a statement that it had no information about the investigation but that "it considers the inquiry to be a very serious matter and will take all necessary steps to clear up the matter promptly."

Though regulators said Glen Ivy can continue selling time shares, it was unclear how the company would be able to operate without its customer and computer files.

Sources, who asked not to be identified, said the Riverside County district attorney, the state attorney general and state Department of Real Estate believe that Glen Ivy has oversold some time shares, including resorts in Laguna Beach and in Hawaii.

Generally, time-share companies are prohibited by state law from selling more than 51 weeks a year per time-share unit, allowing one week a year for repairs and maintenance. However, investigators believe Glen Ivy may have exceeded that limit.

In July, Glen Ivy Properties, the company's time-share unit, had its real estate license suspended for a range of infractions, including incomplete record-keeping on customer accounts.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Glen Ivy paid a $20,000 fine and agreed to a five-year probation in order to have its license restored.

About the same time, the attorney general's office opened an investigation into Glen Ivy's telemarketing practices. That investigation is continuing, Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Herschel Elkins said Tuesday.

Glen Ivy was the subject of a 1989 federal grand jury investigation into alleged overselling of its resorts. The investigation was dropped after 11 months with no charges filed.

At that time, a former company consultant claimed that Peter Giummo, then Glen Ivy's chief financial officer, had used a photographer's light table to trace over the signatures of inactive customers on time-share deeds and then resold those units to new customers.

If true, that would mean two customers owned the same week.

Glen Ivy officials adamantly denied those charges, saying in an interview last summer that there was "no evidence" of records being altered or other misconduct.

On Tuesday, Giummo's Canyon Lake home was searched by state investigators who removed a photographer's light table from his attic.

Glen Ivy spokesman Alexander Auerbach declined comment except to say Giummo was "upset to have armed police show up at his house when his kids were there."

Giummo was recently replaced as Glen Ivy's chief financial officer and named president of Equity Mortgage Corp., a Glen Ivy subsidiary.

State investigators also searched the Moreno Valley home of Brian Wahlstrom, who oversees Glen Ivy's computer system.

Investigators said some employees have told them that Glen Ivy maintained two sets of computer records in an attempt to disguise the alleged overselling of resorts.

"It's very easy to hide evidence within a computer," an investigator said.

A knowledgeable source, who asked not to be named, said that Glen Ivy Chairman Ralph Mann is also a subject of the state investigation but his Canyon Lake home was not searched Tuesday.

Mann has denied any wrongdoing in previous interviews but was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

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