A federal grand jury for the District of New Jersey, sitting in Camden, has returned a 44-count superseding indictment against six individuals from southern New Jersey and four others for their alleged roles in a $3 million mail and wire fraud conspiracy involving timeshare mortgages, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
The six indicted defendants from New Jersey are Adam Lacerda and his wife, Ashley R. Lacerda of Egg Harbor Township, N.J.; Ian Resnick of Absecon, N.J.; Steven Cox of Ventnor City, N.J.; Francis Santore of Northfield, N.J.; and Joseph Diventi of Somers Point, N.J. Also indicted were Alfred Giordano of Hurry County, S.C.; Brian Corley of Little River, S.C.; Joseph Saxon of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Genevieve Manzoni of Lake Worth, Fla. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on Jan. 23, 2013.
Ian Resnick, Joseph Saxon, and Genevieve Manzoni previously were charged by criminal complaint. Adam Lacerda, Ashley R. Lacerda, Steven Cox, Alfred Giordano, Francis Santore, Brian Corley, and Joseph Diventi previously were indicted on the same charges by a federal grand jury sitting in Trenton on May 3, 2012. The defendants are expected to be arraigned before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court in the coming weeks.
According to the superseding indictment and the Complaints previously filed:
In July 2010, law enforcement officers commenced an investigation into The Vacation Ownership Group, a/k/a VO Group LLC. The investigation revealed that beginning at least from March 2009 and continuing to Sept. 1, 2011, the defendants, through the VO Group, participated in a fraudulent scheme in which representatives of the VO Group called owners of timeshare vacation properties purchased from Flagship Resort Development, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc., and other timeshare developers and convinced the owners to submit money to the VO Group, purportedly to pay off their “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 of the amount of the owner’s original mortgage—by mailing payment to the VO Group at a P.O. Box in Pleasantville, New Jersey. The VO Group representatives also persuaded timeshare owners to send the VO Group money purportedly to have timeshares cancelled or sold. Rather than paying off the timeshare owner’s mortgage, canceling the owner’s timeshare, or selling the timeshare, the conspirators kept 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 e-mailed to the victim for signature even though the victim had been led to believe that the victim was simply paying off the victim’s original timeshare mortgage.
According to the complaint, 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, causing them to be more vulnerable to the scheme. The indictment states that law enforcement has determined that the conspirators defrauded the victims of more than $3 million.
The mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge—with which all defendants named in the superseding indictment are charged—is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each additional, substantive charge of mail fraud or wire fraud carries an additional, maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit money laundering charge subjects defendants Adam and Ashley Lacerda to an additional, maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Defendants Adam and Ashley Lacerda also face an additional, maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison for each substantive money laundering count in which they are charged.