CAMDEN, N.J. (May 17, 2012) — Ashley Lacerda, Francis Santore, and Brian Corley were arraigned May 14 in Camden, NJ federal court on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a $2.6 million timeshare mortgage fraud case.
The three are the first of 16 members of The Vacation Ownership Group, (a/k/a VO Group LLC) to be arraigned in the 29-count case. The 16 people were arrested on April 17, 2012 following an investigation that started in July 2010.
Ashley Lacerda, co-owner/founder of the VO Group with her husband Adam Lacerda, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; two counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge, and mail and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit money laundering charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Four more defendants also charged in the indictment are scheduled to be arraigned before Judge Hillman on May 21 at 12:15 p.m. They are: Adam Lacerda, Steven Cox, Alfred Giordano, and Joseph Diventi.
Adam Lacerda has been indicted on 15 counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The seven people listed above and nine others were originally arrested on a complaint that charged them with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Additional substantive counts of mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering were added when they were charged by an indictment returned by a federal grand jury May 3, 2012.
So far, only the Lacerdas have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to the FBI press release the investigation also revealed that Adam Lacerda, Ashley Lacerda, and Brian Corley sought and received unemployment compensation during the time they were working at the VO Group. One of the mail fraud charges in the indictment is in connection with this related scheme.
The nine other defendants— Ian Resnick, 37, of Absecon, New Jeresy; Ryan E. Bird, 34, of Clementon, New Jersey; Catherine Bannigan, 57, of Egg Harbor Township; Vincent Giordano, 27, of Margate, New Jersey; Joseph Saxon, 38, of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Aimee Allen, of Little River, South Carolina; Genevieve Manzoni, 46, of Lake Worth, Florida; Eric Reilly, 33, of Galloway, New Jersey; and Eric K. Reiff, 40, of Williamsburg, Virginia— remain under the charge in the complaint.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from at least March 2009 and to September 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, New Jersey. 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 U.S. Attorneys office said the investigation also revealed that in an attempt to cover up the scheme, the conspirators in most cases allegedly 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 alleged victims of the conspirators’ scheme identified to date, many of whom are elderly.
The charges in the Indictment are:
|One||Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud||Adam Lacerda;
Ashley R. Lacerda;
|Two, four, six, eight, 11, 13, and 27||Mail fraud||Adam Lacerda|
|Three||Mail fraud||Adam Lacerda;
|Five||Mail fraud||Alfred Giordano|
|Seven and 10||Mail fraud||Adam Lacerda;
|Nine and 28||Mail fraud||Ashley R. Lacerda|
|12||Mail fraud||Steven Cox|
|14||Mail fraud||Joseph Diventi|
|15, 18, 21, 24, and 25||Wire fraud||Ashley Lacerda|
|16, 17, and 22||Wire fraud||Adam Lacerda|
|19 and 23||Wire fraud||Steven Cox|
|20||Wire fraud||Ashley Lacerda;
|26||Conspiracy to commit money laundering||Adam Lacerda;
|29||Mail fraud||Brian Corley|
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited special agents from the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. 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. He also thanked the New Jersey Department of Labor, Benefit Payment Control Unit for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. Stephen Stigall and Alyson M. Oswald of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.
Anyone who believes they are a victim of the fraud should contact the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency at 609-677-6400.
Copyright 2012 by Inside the Gate. All rights reserved.