300 former Myrtle Beach employees sue 'Timeshare King'
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Myrtle Beach oceanfront is lined with high-rise resorts to fit just about any budget and any taste. But there's one that has left a bad taste in the mouths of hundreds of former employees.
They claim the owner, billionaire David Siegel, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from them and still has that money, despite an earlier settlement to pay it back. Those workers are about to head back to court to take on the man known as the "Timeshare King."
Who is this David Siegel? He's the guy who's building the largest home in America. His massive home, larger than the White House and nicknamed "Versailles" is the subject of the documentary film, "Queen of Versailles."
He's the guy who says he's responsible for getting George W. Bush into the White House, something he confirmed during an interview after the 2000 election, saying, "I sure did. I got George W. elected President. Personally got him elected president."
He's the guy who, in an e-mail to his thousands of employees, said if president Obama is re-elected, they start losing their jobs. He told employees to consider which candidate's economic policies will "endanger your job".
He's also the guy who owns more timeshare resorts than anyone else on the planet, including the Westgate resort on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
Now he's the guy who has 300 employees suing him for more than $600,000. These timeshare agents were hired to sell timeshares at Myrtle Beach's Westgate Resort. Those agents sold thousands of them. But perhaps in an effort to keep those employees from leaving, a portion of their commissions were kept by David Siegel and his company, CFI Sales and Marketing. One of those agents told me Siegel owes him $30,000.
Then, in January of 2010, a settlement was reached and Siegel agreed to pay back the money. Or did he?
CFI did pay $50,000 of that settlement, then stopped. The plaintiff's lawyer says Siegel claims he only "allowed" the judge to rule against him, not to re-pay the workers anything.
Imagine the frustration for these workers. Their only choice was to go back to the judge and ask for permission to sue David Siegel again, this time likely for wages and damages far exceeding the original $650,000 owed to them. The judge agreed and the case is set to go to trial in less than a week.
We had planned to be talking to several of the plaintiffs in this case, the timeshare agents for Westgate Resorts, as well as their attorney here in Myrtle Beach, Gene Connell. However, after further consideration, all of them decided to withhold comment until after the trial, fearing that no matter what they said, David Siegel would likely sue them.
And if what Siegel is saying about his company's success these days is true, he certainly has the pockets deep enough to keep the suit in the courts for years.
"We are the most profitable we've been in our 32-year history," Siegel said in a recent CNBC interview.
Siegel did go through a rough spot when the housing market imploded. He stopped construction on his 90,000 square foot Florida mansion, put it on the market, and even placed several Westgate properties up for sale.
Today however, is a different story. Siegel claims the company is now breaking records when it comes to profits. He recently gave hundreds of staff raises, and construction on the $100,000,000 home nicknamed Versailles has resumed.
The second trial involving some 300 timeshare agents who say they were cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid commissions gets underway on February 4.
WMBF News Anchor David Klugh spoke with David Siegel's attorney who says he's not even sure if his client will show up for this trial.
That, of course is not expected to douse the fireworks that will happen here between those timeshare agents and the man who proudly calls himself one of the "one-percenters" - and calls other 99 percenters in this country "just jealous."
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