Three people from South Jersey were to be arraigned this afternoon in federal court in Camden in connection with a $2.6 million time share mortgage fraud scheme, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey said.
Ashley Lacerda, 32, of Egg Harbor Township, Francis Santore, 52, of Northfield and Brian Corley, 27, of Egg Harbor, were among 16 defendants charged on April 17 with a variety of offenses, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Authorities said Lacerda, Santore and Corley worked for The Vacation Ownership Group and that the investigation revealed that from at least March 2009 to September 1, 2011, the defendants, often using false identities, telephoned owners of time-share vacation properties purchased through Flagship Resort Development, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc. and other time-share developers.
Court papers said the defendants convinced owners in some cases to submit money to the VO Group, purportedly to pay off the owners' "mortgages" on their time-shares.
Authorities alleged the VO Group claimed the time-share owner could pay off the mortgage balance at a substantially reduced amount — often by as much as 50 percent of the owner's original mortgage — by mailing payment to the VO Group at a post office box in Pleasantville, N.J.
VO Group reps also allegedly got time-share owners to send the VO Group money purportedly to have the time-shares canceled or sold.
Authorities said the money was then deposited into a bank account in the name of the VO Group and defendants then used the time-share owner's money for their personal use.
The investigation also revealed that Ashley Lacerda, Corley and codefendant Adam Lacerda applied for and received unemployment compensation during the time they were working for the VO Group., the U.S. Attorneys office said. Authorities said they interviewed and identified approximately 225 victims of the scheme, many of whom were elderly.