News and Press Releases

Sixteen charged in time share mortgage fraud scheme



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2012


 

CAMDEN, N.J. – Nine people from southern New Jersey were arrested today for their alleged roles in a $2.4 million mail fraud conspiracy involving time share mortgages, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Seven others were also charged in the conspiracy and will have initial court appearances in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands before coming to New Jersey to answer the charges in Complaints unsealed today. The defendants arrested in New Jersey today are expected to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Ann Marie Donio in Camden federal court.

“The trickery described in these Complaints underscores the lengths to which people can go to swindle their unsuspecting victims,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gil Childers said. “That the victims in many cases were elderly makes these alleged crimes particularly offensive.”

“This complex white collar crime investigation revealed that employees of the Vacation Ownership Group allegedly went to great lengths to identify, target, and manipulate desperate victims, who were in search of financial relief in a downward economy, with promises of help with their time share properties,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward said.

According to the Complaints unsealed today:

In July 2010, law enforcement officers began investigating The Vacation Ownership Group, (a/k/a VO Group LLC). The investigation revealed that from at least March 2009 and to Sept. 1, 2011, the defendants, through the VO Group, participated in a fraudulent scheme in which representatives of the VO Group, often using false identities, telephoned owners of timeshare vacation properties purchased from Flagship Resort Development, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc., and other timeshare developers. They convinced the owners in some cases to submit money to the VO Group, purportedly to pay off the owners’ “mortgages” on their timeshares. The VO Group claimed that the timeshare owner could pay off the mortgage balance at a substantially reduced amount – often by as much as 50 percent the amount of the owner’s original mortgage – by mailing payment to the VO Group at a Post Office box in Pleasantville, N.J. The VO Group representatives also got timeshare owners to send the VO Group money purportedly to have timeshares cancelled or sold. After receipt of payments for the VO Group’s “service,” the conspirators caused those payments to be deposited into a bank account in the name of the VO Group. Rather than paying off the timeshare owner’s mortgage, cancelling the owner’s timeshare, or selling the timeshare, the conspirators used the timeshare owner’s money for their personal use.

The investigation also revealed that in an attempt to cover up the scheme, the conspirators in most cases engaged in a “bait and switch” tactic by purchasing an additional timeshare in the victim’s name without the victim’s knowledge. The victim purportedly had assented to the purchase based on documents the VO Group previously emailed to the victim for signature even though the victim had been led to believe he or she was simply paying off the original timeshare mortgage.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers interviewed approximately 225 victims of the conspirators’ scheme identified to date. Many of the victims are elderly. Law enforcement has determined that the conspirators defrauded the victims of more than $2.4 million.

The nine defendants arrested in New Jersey are:


 Adam Lacerda

28

Egg Harbor Township

Ashley R. Lacerda

32

Egg Harbor Township

Steven Cox

48

Ventnor City

Ian Resnick

37

Absecon

Ryan E. Bird

34

Clementon

Francis Santore

52

Northfield

Brian Corley

27

Egg Harbor

Catherine Bannigan

57

Egg Harbor Township

Joseph Diventi

32

Somers Point

 

 Also charged are:



Alfred Giordano

32

Hurry County, S.C.

Vincent Giordano

27

Margate, N.J.

Joseph Saxon

38

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Aimee Allen

26

Little River, S.C.

Genevieve Manzoni

46

Lake Worth, Fla.

Eric Reilly

33

Galloway, N.J.

Eric K. Reiff

40

Williamsburg, VA.


All of the defendants except Alfred Giordano, Allen and Reif were arrested today and are in custody. 

The mail fraud conspiracy with which each defendant is charged carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents from the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ward in Newark; and special agents from the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Panella, New York Region, for their roles in the ongoing investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Stephen Stigall of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.

The charges and allegations contained in the Complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of the fraud should contact the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency at 609-677-6400.

12-127

Defense counsel: TBA

lacerda, Adam Et al Cover Sheets
Lacerda, Adam et al Complaint

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