Deborah Wagner, a partner at the law firm of Wagner & Hyman in Williamsburg, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on Sept. 9 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Prosecutors believe she used the law firm as a front to conduct a timeshare transfer scheme from 2011 to 2013.
According to a government press release (read the full release by clicking HERE), Ms. Wagner participated in a timeshare scheme with Keith Kosco, Julie Duffield, Brendan Hawkins and others. Keith Kosco owned and operated a number of entities involved in travel, tourism and timeshare businesses including Resort Realty, Inc., Resort Solutions, Inc., and Exotic Equity Transfers, LLC (EET). Brendan Hawkins owned and operated another timeshare transfer business known as GoodBye Timeshares (GoodBye). Both businesses offered timeshare transfers in exchange for upfront fees. Desperate timeshare owners who were otherwise unable to escape the financial obligation of the timeshare ownership would pay for a service to have the unwanted timeshare deeded out of their name. It was represented to the seller of the timeshare that clean title would pass to the new owner with no further obligations of timeshare ownership (including maintenance fees) once the transfer was complete.
Transfer paperwork was handled by Kosco's companies in coordination with a business calling Professional Closing Company which served as a third party closing company, and was operated by co-defendant Julie Duffield. In 2013, Wagner and her law firm took over these closing duties. Her firm had previously worked with Brendan Hawkins company in the same capacity since at least 2011. The prosecutor claimed that the businesses conducted fraudulent transfers of over 1,000 timeshare units into the names of stolen identities and straw buyers (individuals who were compensated to accept the timeshare interest but had no true intention to fulfill the future financial obligations of the ownership). After the timeshare transfers were completed, none of the future maintenance fees or taxes due on the accounts was paid, which resulted in more than $1,300,000 in losses to the timeshare operators. Kosco, Duffield, Hawkins, and their employees, engaged in various fraudulent acts in support of the scheme, including false statements and promises to resorts, propping up stolen identities with email accounts, bank accounts and tax returns, falsely notarizing signatures and preparing fraudulent deed paperwork. The transfers also had a devastating impact on the credit of the stolen identities/straw buyers. Wagner is believed to have participated in the scheme from 2011 – 2013 working with both Kosco and Hawkins and their respective companies.
Ms. Wagner could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She may also have to pay restitution and will have to forfeit any assets tied to the scheme, according to documents filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Julie Duffield pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 26 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution, jointly with Kosco, in excess of $740,000.
Kosco pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 74 months in prison.
Brendan Hawkins pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution.