Williamsburg Attorney Indicted in Timeshare Scheme Resulting in Loss of $1.3 million
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Williamsburg attorney was arrested today on a federal indictment returned yesterday, charging her with participating in a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as numerous counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft related to the transfer of thousands of timeshare units into the names of stolen identities and straw owners.
According to court documents and court proceedings, Deborah M. Wagner, 43, of Williamsburg, participated in a timeshare scheme with Keith Kosco, Julie Duffield, Brendan Hawkins and others. Keith Kosco owned and operated a number of entities involved in travel, tourism and timeshare businesses including Resort Realty, Inc., Resort Solutions, Inc., and Exotic Equity Transfers, LLC (EET). Brendan Hawkins owned and operated another timeshare transfer business known as GoodBye Timeshares (GoodBye). A timeshare unit, generally a fully furnished resort accommodation, is a deeded or non-deeded interest in real estate divided into intervals, most commonly by week. Since at least 2007, EET and GoodBye conducted timeshare transfers in exchange for fees charged to the original owner. It was represented to the seller of the timeshare that clean title would pass to the new owner with no further obligations of timeshare ownership (including maintenance fees) on the original owner once the transfer was complete.
Transfer paperwork was handled by EET in coordination with Professional Closing Company which served as a third party closing entity, and was operated by co-defendant Julie Duffield. In 2013, Wagner and her firm took over these duties for EET and had worked with Hawkins since at least 2011. From at least 2009 – 2013, Kosco, Duffield, Hawkins, and their employees conducted fraudulent transfers of over 1,000 timeshare units into the names of stolen identities. The defendants collected fees for conducting the transfers from the original owners. None of the stolen identities / straw buyers paid the required maintenance fees or taxes on the timeshare units, resulting in over $1,300,000 in losses to select resorts for the unpaid fees. Kosco, Duffield, Hawkins, and their employees, engaged in various fraudulent acts in support of the scheme, including false statements and promises to resorts, propping up stolen identities with email accounts, bank accounts and tax returns, falsely notarizing signatures and preparing fraudulent deed paperwork. The transfers also had a devastating impact on the credit of the stolen identities/straw buyers. Wagner participated in the scheme from 2011 – 2013 working with both Kosco and Hawkins and their respective companies. It is alleged that she transferred many timeshare units into the names of stolen identities and straw owners, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the affected resorts due to lost maintenance fees and taxes.
Julie Duffield pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 26 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution, jointly with Kosco, in excess of $740,000. Kosco pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 74 months in prison. In a related case, Brendan Hawkins pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution.
Wagner faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted on each of the mail and wire fraud counts and a mandatory minimum term of 24 months in prison on the aggravated identity theft charges. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after Wagner’s initial appearance before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian J. Samuels and Kaitlin C. Gratton are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:15cr28.