It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: As was noted in a recent comment, hearings on the issue of forfeiture of assets against VO Group/VO Financial founders/owners Adam and Ashley Lacerda have been adjourned (again!) to October 24, 2014 as attorneys for the defendants and the government maneuver for position and duke it out in legalese.

The pair has been languishing in prison since their bail was revoked during their trial last year. So far no sentencing date has been set for them, and it’s not likely to happen until the forfeiture of assets issue (and perhaps other issues?) has been settled since the dollar amount of that can affect the length of their sentences.

Meanwhile an attorney has been appointed to defend Dennis Nadeau, who was arrested in June 2014 on charges that he engaged in “misleading conduct towards another person, with intent to influence, delay, or prevent testimony” (aka witness tampering).

Nadeau is not wasting any time with sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors lawyering; having waived his right to a preliminary hearing and a speedy trial, he’s gone straight into the negotiating stage. Consequently, a continuance was granted on July 11 for a period of 60 days to allow the parties to conduct plea negotiations and attempt to finalize a plea agreement. And the period from July 11 through Sept 9 was deemed excludable in computing time under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974. So as Sept. 9 rolls around I’ll check back into the court records to see what, if anything, is up.

Watch this space…



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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: Joseph Saxon, who has been languishing in government custody pending sentencing for his part in the VO Group timeshare fraud case, had a mental competency and bail hearing on August 13. Apparently Saxon was hoping to be found mentally incompetent so he could serve his sentence in the relative luxury of a mental health facility (and because he doesn’t want to be known as a rat?).

The court docket for November 19, 2013 put it like this:

…the defendant is committed to the custody of the Attorney General for placement by the United States Bureau of Prisons in a suitable facility for the administration of a psychiatric or psychological examination to assess whether defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him etc. The defendant’s application for bail is DENIED without prejudice. The defendant is detained pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3143(a).

But now that he’s been found mentally competent, the 41-year-old Saxon’s attorney moved the proceedings forward to the question of bail.

In the end, his application was granted pending a court structured bail package by pretrial services. A Bail Hearing is set for this coming Thursday, August 21, 2014.

So it looks like Saxon, who has a long arrest record going back at least to 1992 (mostly for things like theft, receiving stolen property, assault, reckless endangerment and stuff like that), will be tasting some freedom at least until he is sentenced. Scuttlebutt insists that he’ll be wearing an ankle bracelet under house arrest at his parents’ house while he waits.

I haven’t found any indication in the Court records that a sentencing date has been set for Saxon, who pled guilty May 31, 2014 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Eric Reilly, who pled guilty in January 2013 to the same offense, received a sentence last month of three years in prison plus three years of supervised release. Considering his criminal past and fairly strong allegations against him regarding his character (or lack thereof), is that an indication of what Saxon can expect or will he get a harsher sentence? Will the time he has already served be taken into account?

Meanwhile, the case against the four defendants who were found guilty nearly a year ago continues to grind slowly on. Genevieve Manzoni is getting a new attorney and is still awaiting a hearing for a new trial, as is Ian Resnick. VO Group/VO Financial founders/owners Adam and Ashley Lacerda are contesting the government’s motion for forfeiture of assets; hearings on that issue are still scheduled to be heard on September 30, so stay tuned for that. Manzoni is free on bail; the other three are currently being held without bail in prison. No sentencing date has been set yet for any of them.

Watch this space…



“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: Sentencing has finally begun for those former VO Group employees who pled guilty to various charges in order to (hopefully) receive reduced sentences. Most, if not all, of them agreed to tell the Feds everything they knew and several of them were called to testify against company owners Adam and Ashley Lacerda and/or Ian Resnick and Genevieve Manzoni at their trial in September last year.

Eric Reilly, who pled guilty in January 2013 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, was sentenced last week to three years in prison plus three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $3,040,767.54 in restitution. (Sentencing was originally scheduled for May 17, 2013, so it’s been a long, stressful wait for the 34-year-old Mr. Reilly.)

The mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge to which Reilly pled guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, so the 3-year sentence may not seem too bad to him relatively speaking.

Perhaps more importantly, the length of this sentence could indicate that when the 4 who actually went to trial and were convicted on multiple counts are finally sentenced, the judge will not be lenient. Keep in mind that Adam Lacerda was convicted on Sept. 5, 2013 on 13 counts of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. His wife Ashley was convicted on 6 counts of conspiracy and mail and wire fraud. Even if they were sentenced to a mere 3 years for each count, that would amount to a significant stretch of years if served consecutively. Others have suggested a possible sentence of 20 years for each offense but served concurrently. IMO there are too many possible options to make predictions, and probably none of those options are looking very good to them or their families.

Right now the issue being litigated is the question of forfeiture of assets, which I understand plays to the length of the sentence among other things. The more the government can claim the bad guys stole, the more time they can potentially get in the slammer. The government is asking for the forfeiture of nearly $12 million (originally they claimed a mere $3 million). The hearing on those motions is now scheduled for August 30, 2014.

Convicted on the same day was Ian Resnick, a close associate and loyal friend of the Lacerdas, who was found guilty on 7 counts of conspiracy and mail and wire fraud. Resnick previously did time for bank robbery.

The fourth guilty verdict was for Genevieve Manzoni, who was convicted on 2 counts of conspiracy and mail fraud and found not guilty on one count of wire fraud.

Resnick and Manzoni have both requested a new trial. Their motions are currently scheduled to be heard on July 28, 2014.

Of the four, only Manzoni has remained out on bail; bond for the other three was revoked prior to their convictions due to the judge’s assessment that they were flight risks and amid allegations of witness tampering.

So it’s one sentence down in the VO Group timeshare fraud case and many more to go. Watch this space for updates.



“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: Well here’s a new twist in the VO Group trials. A new twist and a new arrest, which might indicate that some of the VO Group/VO Financial folks who think they’re home free might be mistaken about that.

Dennis Nadeau, who lives in Myrtle Beach,SC, has been arrested on charges that he engaged in misleading conduct towards another person, with intent to influence, delay, or prevent testimony. In plain English: He stands accused of witness tampering related to last year’s trial of company founders Adam and Ashley Lacerda et al.

Here’s the thing. During the Lacerdas’ trial the FBI provided them and their lawyers with “discovery” material for the preparation of their trial, as is required by law. That discovery included the full names, addresses and phone numbers of victims.

According to the criminal complaint against Nadeau, in April and May 2013 Ashley Lacerda instructed him to call victims who were listed in the discovery documents in an attempt to persuade them that they had not been defrauded and to offer them refunds. Nadeau subsequently called several of the potential witnesses (and secretly recorded the conversations) trying to convince them to say the VO Group was not at fault for various reasons, such as it was their own fault because they had failed to follow the company’s instructions. Nadeau also tried to get some customers to say the VO Group’s failure to cancel timeshare contracts was due to the FBI investigation, and in at least one case that Wyndham was the biggest culprit because they had complained to the FBI and that was what got everything all fouled up.

Some of the people Nadeau allegedly called testified later during the Lacerdas’ trial. Nadeau faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of witness tampering.

Making a long story short, Nadeau has asked to have his preliminary hearing in New Jersey, and his initial appearance is set for July 10 in Camden before Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams.

You can read the criminal complaint here if you want to, and if I do say so — you might want to.

Stay tuned.



“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com

It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: There isn’t anything new to report about Adam and Ashley Lacerda this week but they’re not the only ones involved in the VO Group trial.

Ian Resnick and Genevieve Manzoni were also found guilty of various felonies during that lengthy trial, Resnick’s sins considerably greater than Manzoni’s. And back in January their attorneys each filed a motion for a new trial based on their assertions that the evidence presented against the Lacerdas prejudiced the jury against them (they were all tried together in a group, but with separate attorneys). Oral arguments on their motions were originally set for February 19, 2014 but were continued for various reasons. In the meantime, Resnick has been twiddling his thumbs in jail; Manzoni has been free on bail.

The hearing for a new trial for the two has now been set for July 15, 2014.

To recap for those unfamiliar with the case: Adam Lacerda, 28, and Ashley Lacerda, 32, both of Egg Harbor Township, N.J.; Ian Resnick, 37, of Abescon, N.J.; and Genevieve Manzoni, 46, of Lake Worth, Fla. – were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Adam Lacerda was also convicted of nine counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud.

Ashley Lacerda was convicted of one count of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud.

Resnick, a previously convicted bank robber, was convicted of three counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud.

Manzoni was also convicted of one count of mail fraud.

BTW: The following comment was left on last week’s post about the issue of asset forfeiture and because it is both accurate and important I’m reposting it here:

The reason the Government wants a high loss amount is NOT for restitution purposes per se. Restitution is, as a practical matter, rarely enforced because the defendants usually exhaust most of their ill-gotten funds on legal fees. But, rather the higher the financial loss to the victims, the higher the range of the US Sentencing Guidelines. Therefore, all other things being equal; the more money you steal, the more time you get.

Stay tuned.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: Attorney Mark Cedrone, acting for Adam Lacerda in the VO Group timeshare fraud case, has filed a response to the government’s motion for foreiture, in which the government upped the ante by requesting a forfeiture amount of $12 million. Filing electronically, Cedrone wrote:

RE: United States v. Adam Lacerda – Criminal No. 12-303 (NHL)

Dear Judge Hillman:
Please accept this as Adam Lacerda’s response to the government’s letter brief dated May 2, 2014 through which the government attempts to further bastardize the notice requirements of Fe. R. Crim. P. 32.2 by, for the first time, seeking a nearly $12 million forfeiture judgment — an amount some four times that alleged through the procedurally defective notice contained in the Indictment and the $2.9 million sought through the government’s original forfeiture pleadings.

Cedrone then argued that the government failed to allege forfeiture under any statute that authorizes forfeiture for the crimes of conviction at issue in this case. He says the Superseding Indictment alleges forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. paragraph 981(a)(1)(D) and 18 U.S.C. paragraph 982(a)(8), neither of which authorizes forfeiture for any of the crimes for which Mr. Lacerda was convicted. He cited precedent, presented exhibits and argued law in quite a lucid and compelling manner. Whether or not the judge will agree with those arguments is another matter entirely, but Cedrone and his staff earned their pay with this one. You can view the document for yourself at this link.

Charles H. Nugent, Jr., attorney for Ashley Lacerda, apparently agrees. In a letter to the judge he requested permission to join in Cedrone’s arguments, and made some additional comments as well, including this one:

The government claims that because VO Group was “permeated with fraud” a judgment in excess of almost $12 million is justified. However, its own evidence, based upon an exhaustive investigation by the FBI, has claimed to identify possibly hundreds ofalleged victims, who, according to the government, have been scammed a total of less than $3 million. The government’s evidence in support of the original amount of 3 million dollars is scant and unreliable, and Ashley Lacerda rests on the arguments made at oral argument on April 16, 2014. Since that date, the government has produced no evidence in excess of that amount, but still seeks a money judgment in excess of almost $12 million, based upon gross revenues of VO Group from May 22, 2009 through April 18, 2012. Based on the government’s own calculations, there appears to have been legitimate revenues of almost $9 million, or least 9 million that the government cannot relate to criminal activity, which is reason alone to reject the application. The relationship of alleged criminal proceeds to gross revenues is so lopsided that forfeiture of gross proceeds is unwarranted

Stay tuned.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: Hmmm. Things got a bit more interesting in the VO Group timeshare fraud trial this month, at least from my point of view. I doubt that’s how Adam and Ashley Lacerda view it.

On April 16 the Court held a hearing regarding the forfeiture of assets in the case. The Government was ordered to submit a letter brief in support of their position by May 2, and they did so. Here’s how it starts out:

…The Court requested additional legal authority on the showing needed to forfeit the gross receipts received by a defendant’s business as proceeds of the crime, as well as an explanation of the factual basis for concluding that the VO Group was a fraud. As is explained below, it is well established that the forfeitable proceeds of a fraudulent enterprise include all funds that the enterprise would not have received but for the fraud. Based on this principle, several courts have held that the gross receipts of a business can and should be forfeited if the business was permeated by fraud or if the business would not have been in business without the benefit of the fraud. The evidence introduced at trial established that the VO Group was a fraudulent enterprise from its very beginnings and throughout the course of the charged conspiracy, as VO Group employees made false statements to customers, using VO Group scripts, in order to obtain money. Based on this legal authority and the facts established at trial, the Court should order the entry of a money judgment against Adam Lacerda and Ashley Lacerda in the amount of the $11,922,908.38, the total amount that their fraudulent business the VO Group received from individuals.

It then goes on to provide a series of legal precedent supporting their position that the VO Group was fraudulent from its inception, permeated with fraud and that therefore it is proper that the company’s entire gross receipts be forfeited, saying.

Under these authorities, this Court should order the forfeiture of the VO Group’s total gross receipts as proceeds of the fraud if the Court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the VO Group’s activities were permeated with fraud or that the VO Group would not have been in business but for the fraud. The evidence introduced at trial provides ample support for these conclusions.

And it ends like this:

CONCLUSION

The Government respectfully requests that the Court grant its application, as amended in this brief, for the entry of a forfeiture money judgment against defendants Adam Lacerda and Ashley Lacerda in the amount of the total proceeds of their fraudulent enterprise: $11,922,908.38.

Respectfully submitted,

PAUL J. FISHMAN
United States Attorney

Did you catch that number? The Government is asking for nearly $12 million, not the approximately $3 million originally cited in the case.

The Lacerdas’ attorneys have until May 16 to file a response.

Stay tuned.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: The news this week is slight, but at least there’s something recent to report.

Regarding the Motion for Forfeiture of Property against Adam and Ashley Lacerda, the hearing on those motions having previously been reset to April 16, 2014, the issue was heard by Judge Noel L. Hillman on that date.

As it turns out, both Adam and Ashlee waived their right to appear at the hearing, so their attorneys showed up without their clients, everyone made their arguments for and against, and after an hour and a half the Judge reserved his decision. Judge Hillman ordered the Government to submit a supplemental letter brief by May 2, 2014; Defendant’s reply is due May 16, 2014.

And then, the hour being 12:22 p.m., they probably all went to lunch.

A hearing on post trial motions date and time is still to be set by the court, as is a sentencing date.

That’s all there is to report this week. Stay tuned.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAPE COD: In the “Where are they now” category, while Adam and Ashley Lacerda, Ian Resnick and Genevieve Manzoni await news of their fate in New Jersey, the scuttlebutt in Massachusetts says three former VO Financial employees have started up a new business, one that has nothing to do with timeshare.

Word on the street is that Alan Lacerda, Jon Welch and Jeff Baroni have opened a construction business named All Cape Property Management, which doesn’t sound like a construction company but its website says “We Specialize in property management, Interior or Exterior home Renovations, Including Bathroom and kitchen remodeling, garages and more!” [sic]

There’s nothing wrong with that. Folks need to earn a living, after all. But out of curiosity I checked it out.

At first I heard this was Alan’s baby and that he hired Baroni to be his sales agent; there was no mention of Welch at all. But as I looked into it things got a little more confusing.

When I looked for the company in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ corporation search (Company, LP, LLP, LLC, etc.) I couldn’t find it. No such company exists in their records. So I looked for it under contractor/construction business licensing, but I couldn’t find it there, either. I found their License ID (169552 -Home Improvement Contractor) in an ad on Craislist, but at least at the link above that number gave me no results either.

So then I searched corporations for Alan Lacerda using the individual name (Officer, Director, etc.) option, and that brought up a company named Ballast Consulting, LLC, registered in Oct. 2013 with Lacerda and Jonathan Welch as managing partners. That was all. Did I miss something? Should I be looking for All Cape Property Management somewhere else in the business records?

Next I checked out their website. Welch and Baroni are mentioned by their full names in the testimonials (“ratings”) but the only mention of Alan is the use of a first name. Nowhere else on the site is Alan Lacerda mentioned. In fact, except for those “ratings” no names associated with the company are revealed at all. (A casually interesting factoid is that the testimonials date back to August 2011, yet the website — and supposedly the company itself — is brand spanking new.)

The domain name for that website was registered by Jeffrey Baroni in January 2014 and apparently they intend to be around for a while because it was registered for 5 years. The address listed on the WHOIS registration resolves to a single family residence in South Yarmouth that belongs to Jeff Baroni.

The company’s address, as listed on their website, is a P.O. box in Forestdale, MA. Does that mean they don’t have a physical bricks and mortar office location yet?

On Angie’s List the company lists itself thusly:

South Yarmouth, MA 02664
(855) 322-8891
www.AllCapePropertyMGMT.com
Contact: Baroni, Jeffrey
Business Description: All Cape Property Management is a fully licensed and insured building, remodeling and property management company. We are a client focused company looking to build long term relationships by fair pricing quality work and excellent customer service.
Services: Garage Builders, Home Builders, Contractors, Woodworking, Ceramic Tile, Decks, Doors, Drain Pipe, Drywall, Picture Framing, Handyman Service, Landscaping, Plumbing, Property Management, Remodeling, Bathroom & Kitchen Remodeling
In Business Since: 1999
Service Area: Barnstable County

When I googled the toll-free phone number both ACPM and Ballast Consulting LLC came up in the search results. Ballast doesn’t have a working website but they DO have a domain name registered. And the registrant of that domain is Alan Lacerda, who registered it on October 7, 2013 for one year.

What does it all mean? Darned if I know. But if I were a betting man I’d guess that of the three people known to be involved in this company, Jon Welch would get the best odds for having some kind of construction background. And if All Cape Property Management has been in business since 1991, as their blurb on Angie’s List says, they’ve sure been almighty hard to find.

The one thing that is for sure is that all three of the men are listed on VO Financial’s website as having worked at the Cape Cod office at the same time, Alan as VP Operations & Compliance MA and Baroni and Welch as VOFC Senior Specialists MA. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: There isn’t much to report yet on proceedings against the convicted participants in the VO Group trial, by whom I mean Adam and Ashley Lacerda, Ian Resnick and Genevieve Manzoni. We’re still waiting to find out when a sentencing date will be set, whether or not their appeals will be dismissed or upheld, etc.

But there are a couple of items that might interest you.

Regarding the Motion for Forfeiture of Property against Adam and Ashley, the hearing on those motions has been reset to April 16, 2014, at which time the issue will be heard by Judge Noel L. Hillman.

Ashley’s attorney told the Court that he met recently with Ashley and discussed the forfeiture hearing with her, including her right to be present at the hearing. Ms. Lacerda advised him that she does not want to attend the motion hearing and waived her right to be present at the hearing, and he dutifully notified the Judge of that fact.

There was no such notice in the court records regarding Adam, so I assume he will be present at the hearing.

Ian Resnick and Genevieve Manzoni’s motions for a new trial were to be heard in February but the hearing was canceled and no new date has yet been scheduled. In the meantime, Resnick is still in custody and Manzoni is still not in jail.

That’s all there is to report this week, except that due to the inability of some commenters to take into consideration the fact that young children impacted by the conviction and incarceration of their parents find this blog and read those comments, I have decided to disable comments for future posts on this subject.

That is all.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: Switching the focus a bit from the VO Group scandal and trials, in the last several weeks I’ve been hearing from some people who got caught up in VO Financial’s web and don’t know what to do. The most recent simply said this:

We have tried to reach them voice mail is full don’t answer e-mail I believe we have been taken advantage of. What is our next step.

Other than pointing them to the FBI and Camden district’s US Attorney General to file complaints, there isn’t much help I can offer.

For all intents and purposes VO Financial is out of business. They have not responded to phone calls or emails in at least several weeks; they moved out of their Egg Harbor Township headquarters, leaving no forwarding address; and to the best of my knowledge they have not notified their clients about anything at all.

And that’s the BIG thing: Their current clients. What will become of all the people who signed up with them for one of their various programs, paid cash up front, and are now stuck without having received all the services promised? On top of everything else, it’s unconscionable that VOF has not been communicating with them.

Sources indicate to me that Adam, who was still running things even after his bail was revoked, pretty much had everyone convinced that they would not be convicted and the company just kept on with business as usual — though there were a lot of complaints from sales reps about not getting paid (they mostly assumed the money was all going toward the Lacerdas’ defense and/or being stashed away somewhere for “emergency” use).

Word on the street has long insisted that shortly after the convictions were handed down against Adam & Ashley Lacerda and Ian Resnick, the company closed the doors on all of their sales centers except the Egg Harbor one — and that one was barely limping along. Former sales associates wrote to say that pretty much everyone was let go (mostly without being paid) and only a few remained, who worked from home offices. Rumor also has it that a few “rogue” sales people set up their own outlets, but they didn’t last long.

In addition, the grapevine keeps buzzing that all VOF-related bank accounts have been frozen by the Feds. That sounds like a reasonable rumor, because if Adam and/or Ashley were the signatories for any such accounts then the Feds would see them as fair game in their efforts to reclaim money for the victims of the original fraud.

It’s hard to do business when you’ve got no access to operating capital, but that’s no comfort to those new VOF victims who have been caught in the crossfire.

I have to wonder if the Feds are investigating VO Financial itself? And I wonder if the people who were working there, including top level management, cringe every time the phone rings or someone knocks on the door.

I did notice, though, that the domain names for the company (vofinancial.net and vofinancial.com), which were due to expire in April this year, were both renewed on Feb. 18, 2014 to run through April 19, 2016. Do they have real plans, are they organizing a comeback, or are they just whistling past the graveyard?


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: Adam Lacerda’s attorney, Mark Cedrone, has filed a response to the government’s Motion for Forfeiture of assets in the VO Group fraud case, arguing that the motion is unlawful for a variety of reasons. Cedrone states the following as an introduction to his argument:

…the government seeks a criminal forfeiture money judgment against Adam and Ashley Lacerda in the amount of at least $2,994,933.77. The government also seeks criminal forfeiture of three specifically identified assets, namely: 1) $195,000 in cash seized on November 4, 2010 from the Lacerdas’ home safe; 2) $110,413.06 seized on or about November 4, 2010 from VO Group’s TD bank account; 3) $149,925 stolen from VO Group’s successor in interest, which has since been recovered by Gloucester County law enforcement officials and is currently in the possession of the Gloucester County Superior Court.

In support of its argument, the government relies upon the trial testimony, supplemented by an Affidavit of FBI Special Agent John Mesisca which is based almost exclusively on “rank” hearsay, specifically, interviews by Special Agent Mesisca or other FBI personnel of purported victims of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment.

The government’s request must be denied for the following reasons:

  1. The Notice of Forfeiture upon which the government proceeds suffers from significant structural flaws — flaws acknowledged by the government — which cannot be resurrected through the government’s suggested broad reading of Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2 and U.S.C. 2461(c);
  2. The Court failed to protect Mr. Lacerda’s constitutionally based right to a jury trial by failing to inquire of Mr. Lacerda (as required by under [sic] Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(b)(5)) whether he desired the jury be retained to determine forfeiture and;
  3. The evidentiary basis upon which the government relies is not sufficient to support the government’s forfeiture request and violates Mr. Lacerda’s confrontation and jury trial rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution.

Cedrone then provides his full argument in support of those points in several pages of lawyerly eloquence.

As I noted in February, oral arguments on the motions is scheduled for March 20, 2014, after which we’ll find out who presented the best argument.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that all of VO Financial’s bank accounts have been frozen along with those of just about everyone connected to VOF, which is pretty interesting if true. But I cannot vouch for the accuracy of those reports (though they originated with good sources) so take that with a grain of salt.

Stay tuned.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

CAMDEN: I get the picture. Neither Adam Lacerda nor Ashley are innocent victims in this VO Group mess; neither has clean hands and both have allegedly indulged in less-than-savory behavior in other arenas as well.

But let me make something clear. There are innocent children affected by this VO Group mess and they are old enough to be finding stuff about their parents on the Internet. It’s bad enough that their parents have been convicted of serious crimes and will be going to jail; these kids do not need to be stumbling across vulgar comments, etc. that are unrelated to the crimes for which their parents were convicted. Please show a little compassion! Some of you have posted detailed, vile allegations, for instance, that no daughter should have to hear about her mother regardless of the veracity of those allegations. So keep the kids in mind before you comment, because I’ll spam-block you in a New York second if you’re such an ass that you post the kind of crap I’ve been having to moderate lately!

Now for the latest news.

The Court handling the case for Adam and Ashley Lacerda, et al in the VO Group fraud case has scheduled a hearing on March 20, 2014 on the motion of the United States for forfeiture, which is directed solely to Adam and Ashley and does not include Ian Resnick or Genevieve Manzoni. The parties have agreed to that schedule for the Lacerdas’ responses to the motion and the government’s reply brief: The Lacerdas’ responses will be filed by February 28, 2014, and the government’s reply brief will be filed by March 13, 2014.

This forfeiture thing is kind of interesting and you can view the relevant law at Cornell University Law School’s website. Check this out, for instance:

(2) Preliminary Order.

    (B) Timing. Unless doing so is impractical, the court must enter the preliminary order sufficiently in advance of sentencing to allow the parties to suggest revisions or modifications before the order becomes final as to the defendant under Rule 32.2(b)(4).

BUT:

(C) General Order. If, before sentencing, the court cannot identify all the specific property subject to forfeiture or calculate the total amount of the money judgment, the court may enter a forfeiture order that:

(i) lists any identified property;

(ii) describes other property in general terms; and

(iii) states that the order will be amended under Rule 32.2(e)(1) when additional specific property is identified or the amount of the money judgment has been calculated.

I would guess from this that the sentencing date for the pair will be set for a date after March 20. At any rate, as of Feb. 5 the sentencing date had not yet been determined. Stay tuned for that.


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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> MIDWEST AND SOUTHERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS

EAST ST. LOUIS: Four more people operating an alleged timeshare resale telemarketing scam based in Florida have been charged in Illinois for their alleged sins. It seems the Southern District of Illinois doesn’t take kindly to having its citizens scammed.

Jacqueline Enid Acevedo, 30, of Cedar Hill, Texas; Nathan Scott Christian, 30, of Boynton Beach, Florida; Robert Joseph Lopicola, 43, of Doral, Florida; and Kyle Richard Robertson, 31, of Miami, Florida have each been indicted by a federal grand jury for one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

According to Stephen R. Wigginton, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, between late 2007 and approximately December 2009, about 25,500 consumers were victimized in all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as well as in all ten Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territory of Canada.

The indictments allege that approximately $35 million was fraudulently collected by telemarketers involved in this scheme. At least sixty-eight (68) consumers in at least thirty (30) of the thirty-eight (38) counties comprising the Southern District of Illinois were victimized.

According to the complaint, between late 2007 and continuing until on or about November 2009, C&G Marketing Associates, LLC, a Florida corporation, defrauded consumers using the fictitious name Premier Timeshare Solutions (“PTS”) by conducting a fraudulent timeshare resale scheme through the use of telemarketing.

PTS telemarketers worked in an office building in West Palm Beach, Florida. From there, they placed phone calls to timeshare owners throughout the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, falsely representing or implying that the company had found someone who wanted to buy their timeshare interest. In exchange for an advance fee that typically exceeded $1,000, the PTS telemarketers promised to handle all the details of the sale and send the victims the proceeds after closing.

As is the usual outcome of such timeshare resale scams, the indictment alleges there were no interested buyers, the closings did not occur, and the timeshares were not resold. Instead, the conspirators simply pocketed the advanced fees.

Another defendant, Jose Goyos, was indicted for his role in this scheme in April 2013. Goyos has pled guilty to the charge and is currently awaiting sentencing.

If convicted, each defendant is subject to a term of imprisonment of up to 25 years, a fine of $250,000 and five years of supervised release.

$35 Million in two years is a whole bunch of money. It kind of makes the VO Group/VO Financial gang look like pikers by comparison…


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“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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It's Happy Hour at The GateHouse>> EASTERN USA TIMESHARE NEWS:

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP: The timeshare grapevine has been humming lately about the VO Group/VO Financial debacle, with details from the inside pushing their way to the outside. Some of it is real eyebrow-raising stuff!

For instance, one source familiar with the inner workings of the group and its top players says that as the case against the defendants progressed Adam Lacerda — due to fear of wire taps, etc. — would hold meetings with high ranking managers using X Box 360 online play, setting up a private room on the game Call Of Duty so he could have 10 “players” (employees) all together at once with no one else able to enter the “room”. There he would allegedly discuss things he didn’t want anyone else to hear (like the FBI). The source, who doubts the FBI even knows about it, says Adam usually used this method with the out-of-state offices.

This source also says that toward the end, as things began to unravel, Adam began to get really paranoid and did some crazy things. This was all while he was running VO Financial. You know, the pure-as-the-driven-snow successor to VO Group, who paid off RipOff Report for a trusted-company endorsement.

Interestingly, multiple sources over time all agree on a few basic things about Adam Lacerda. One of those sources summed it up this way:

He was an evil genius, very vindictive/sociopath. I’m telling you right now he never ever expected to go to jail EVER! He really believed what he was doing wasn’t wrong OR he thought he was smarter than everyone else including the law. BUT i have to say the kid was a genius, I mean he could make you believe the sky was black if he wanted you to bad enough. I’m no idiot and neither were some of his employees. The guy was good at making you believe everything was O.K even though his house was being raided and he was in jail every 6 months lol.

On another issue, a GateHouse reader sent in a sort of short Bio of Adam that you might find intriguing (or not). I have not been able to confirm its accuracy, but it has a ring of authenticity so if it’s true it might provide a little insight:

He grew up with an alcoholic mother and a very strict stepfather (he never knew his real father). He was picked on a lot as a child, and spent a lot of time isolated as a teen. He was fascinated by shows like American Greed and Wallstreet. When he was around 16 he got into trouble for forging autographs onto baseball cards and trying to sell them on EBay. He worked in the men’s department at Sears for a while, but got fired for having friends come in and return items that he would covertly hand off to them when they walked in.

He certainly developed a warped sense of right and wrong growing up as he did. Let’s hope somehow his time in prison will help to change the direction of his life in a positive way…

Adam and Ashley Lacerda, Halloween 2012Here’s a photo of Adam and Ashley from Halloween after they were first arrested in 2012. Adam showed up at the office dressed as a prisoner and Ashley as an FBI agent. Laughs all around.

I’ll bet they’re not laughing now.

By the way, you may remember that Ian Resnick and Genevieve Manzoni have each filed a motion for a new trial based on their assertions that the evidence presented against the Lacerdas prejudiced the jury against them (they were all tried together in a group, but with separate attorneys). Oral arguments on their motions have been set for February 19, 2014 in Camden, Courtroom 3A, before Judge Noel L. Hillman. Stay tuned.


Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).

"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." -Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: gatekeeper@insidethegate.com