"... A former employee of The Vacation Ownership Group LLC admitted to conspiring to defraud owners of timeshare properties by offering phony consulting services, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced. She also admitted to illegally collecting unemployment benefits. Catherine Bannigan, 58, of Ventnor, New Jersey, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to an
information charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The Vacation Ownership Group, a/k/a VO Group LLC, had offices in Mays Landing, New Jersey, and Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, and claimed to offer consulting services to owners of timeshares, including cancelling, purchasing, and upgrading the timeshares.
In 2010, Bannigan started working at the VO Group and was trained by VO Group co-owner Adam Lacerda to call customers using prepared scripts. The defendant called customers and gave them the false impression that they were working for a bank or lending institution. After hearing the Bannigan’s false representations,
some customers sent checks to the VO Group. For example, Bannigan falsely told victim “JL” that a committee at the VO Group was meeting, that Bannigan had scheduled JL’s case to be heard by the committee, and that she needed to mark her complaint resolved or unresolved to induce JL to send the VO Group money. Bannigan admitted causing more than $70,000 in losses....
... On January 23, 2013, co-owners Adam Lacerda and Ashley Lacerda and other members of the VO Group were charged in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and other charges. Additional members of the VO Group were also charged by criminal complaint in April 2012. To date, 12 members of the VO Group have pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. As for the Lacerdas and other defendants who have not been convicted in this case, the charges and allegations against them are merely accusations, and they are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge to which Bannigan pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. The wire fraud charge is also punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 4, 2013.