CAMDEN, N.J. (April 18, 2012) — U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced yesterday that nine people from southern New Jersey were arrested for their alleged roles in a $2.4 million mail fraud conspiracy involving timeshare mortgages.
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 going to New Jersey to answer the charges in Complaints unsealed yesterday. The defendants arrested in New Jersey were expected to appear yesterday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Ann Marie Donio in Camden federal court.
All sixteen of them are affiliated with The Vacation Ownership Group, (a/k/a VO Group LLC).
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, Horry County, S.C.
- Vincent Giordano, 27, Margate
- Joseph Saxon, 38, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
- Aimee Allen, 26, Little River, S.C.
- Genevieve Manzoni, 46, Lake Worth, Fla.
- Eric Reilly, 33, Galloway
- Eric K. Reiff, 40, Williamsburg, Va.
According to the complaint: 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.
All of the defendants except Alfred Giordano, Aimee Allen and Eric K. Reif were arrested Tuesday and are in custody.
Another company associated with Adam and Ashley Lacerda is Timeshare Protection, LLC, but that company was not included in this complaint.