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An apartment rental agency allegedly scammed dozens of Quebec snowbirds into Florida

An apartment rental agency allegedly scammed dozens of Quebec snowbirds into Florida

Dozens of snowbirds in Quebec who entrusted thousands of dollars to a Florida apartment rental agency have seen their vacation turn into a nightmare and fear they will never see the color of their money again.

“We're all convinced we're going to lose our money. It smells like a scam,” criticizes Daniel Richard, a 70-year-old Montreal resident.

He is one of dozens of Quebecers who Newspaper I spoke to someone who rented an apartment to spend several weeks in the sun this winter with Segula Vacations.

This company, which was established in 2022, acts as an intermediary between owners of residential units located in several cities in Florida and clients who want to rent them. It initially received good comments, especially from many Quebecers, and many people trusted it.



The Segula Vacation website was still online Tuesday and still had a page offering rental properties.

Screenshot

No flat or refund

Things started to go wrong at the beginning of this winter, when clients noticed that their apartment had not actually been rented from the owner, despite sending an initial payment of several thousand or even tens of thousands of US dollars to Segula Vacations.

“I've never had an apartment. I came back here for Christmas, and my kids lost their plane tickets. I've never felt like this, to be cheated out in the same way,” says Helen Chollet, who went to Florida before realizing the apartment Not rented, she laments, and so she sees her dream of Christmas with her family in Florida shattered.



Daniel Richard says he lost thousands of dollars by trusting Segula Vacations.  In the pit: Marilyn Martinez, company owner.

A page from a Segula Vacations brochure sent to clients.

Screenshot

Today the Laurentides resident cannot recover the huge sum she paid to rent an apartment for four months, even though there was a clause to that effect stipulated in the contract, amounting to US$28,000 (or CAD$37,000) to rent an apartment for four months.

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She estimates she lost “at least $50,000” due to the problems caused by the false booking, particularly in hotel and transportation costs before returning to Quebec.

For several weeks, the alleged victims of this company have been mobilizing to find the missing amounts. Review verified by Newspaper It appears that at least 20 clients in Quebec lost more than $120,000 USD ($161,000 CAD).

“No fraud,” says the owner.

Some alleged victims have since filed complaints with the Hallandale Police Station in Florida, where several of the apartments allegedly rented are located.

It has become increasingly difficult to reach the owner of Segula Vacations, Marilyn Martinez, as many customers are demanding refunds. She did not respond to multiple requests for interviews from Newspaper.



Daniel Richard says he lost thousands of dollars by trusting Segula Vacations.  In the pit: Marilyn Martinez, company owner.

Marilyn Martinez, owner of Segula Vacations.

God willing (unknown source)

Some received an apology email from the owner, including… Newspaper She was given a copy explaining that her company had “difficulty meeting its obligations.”

“I would like to make it clear that there was no fraud, no unhealthy intent […] Growth in demand for reservations [sic] It was very fast and the chassis was not suitable to handle it,” wrote MI Martinez.

Hallandale Beach Police yesterday could not confirm Newspaper And conduct an investigation into this matter.

Experts advise against bank transfers

It is not recommended to pay large amounts via bank transfers, according to an expert.

“It's the equivalent of giving someone cash. For very large amounts, I tend to recommend using a credit card instead,” says security expert Simon Marchand.

Credit card payment systems come with many protections. “For example, they can go and look for money in the seller’s accounts.”

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“I don't think we can blame people for trusting a company that already has a proven track record, especially if this is their second time doing business with them,” believes Mr Marchand.

Other certificates:

“It's not a question of money”



Daniel Richard says he lost thousands of dollars by trusting Segula Vacations.  In the pit: Marilyn Martinez, company owner.

Daniel Richard says he was cheated like many snowbirds in Quebec by Segula Vacations.

Pierre-Paul Poulin / Le Journal de Montreal / QMI Agency

Daniel Richard, one of several Quebecers who say they were cheated by Segula Vacations, is calling on authorities to do their job, to avoid more situations like his.

“We have to stop the bleeding and allow everyone to send money without getting anything in return. It's not about the money for me.”

Mr Richard was scheduled to stay in Pompano Beach with his partner from February 24 to March 25, after sending $2,500 to Segula Vacations on October 31, 2023.

He has little hope of reaching the apartment the agency promised him, as the company has ignored his letters and requests for payment.

Vacation is much more expensive



Daniel Richard says he lost thousands of dollars by trusting Segula Vacations.  In the pit: Marilyn Martinez, company owner.

Raymond LeBlanc was unable to get his $2,225 deposit back for an apartment in the Beachwalk complex that he never had access to.

Photo courtesy of Raymond LeBlanc

Raymond LeBlanc wasn't the only one in his entourage to book with Segula Vacations, which allowed him to see many of the red flags and save his vacation.

“Since the end of November, we had a friend booked with Segula and he wanted to cancel the booking. He was running after MI Martinez for his money. “We're starting to feel a little doubtful.”

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His brother-in-law decided to send a friend to check who owned the apartment he had promised.

“My apartment is not for rent,” the landlord reportedly replied.

Unable to contact mI Martinez and his refund Before his vacation, Mr. LeBlanc gave up his reservation and his luxury apartment.

He was still able to “turn around” and rent another apartment to save for his vacation, which would have cost him nearly $11,000 in lodging expenses if he couldn't be reimbursed, instead of $4,500.

“It was good” last year



Daniel Richard says he lost thousands of dollars by trusting Segula Vacations.  In the pit: Marilyn Martinez, company owner.

Natalie Dionne

Photo courtesy of Natalie Dionne

Nearly $10,000: That's how much Natalie Dionne paid Segula Vacation for an apartment she never had access to.

However, nothing led him to believe that things would happen this way. “In 2023, I rented with her. I had dinner with her, and saw her family. I paid for it right away and everything was fine.

I therefore rented again with this agency for stay from January 29th to March 31st 2024.

The night before she left for Florida in 2024, she received a phone call from Marilyn Martinez saying that due to a problem, her apartment was not available.

The solution for him? He promised to pay for the hotel for a month, until January 31, while she found something else for him.

But “on the evening of January 15, someone came and knocked on my bedroom door and said: Shouldn’t you go out today?” “I had to move out” because payment was not received for the rest of the month, laments Ms. Dion, who also had to rent something else to save for the Florida winter.