The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) and ARDA Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC) applaud federal prosecutors for the final sentencing of a New Jersey woman convicted of participating in a $3 million timeshare mortgage fraud scheme. The sentencing – 6 years in prison – sends a strong signal that fraudulent schemes will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Ashley Lacerda of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., was convicted in 2013 on conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud counts. She was part of a ring of scammers at Vacation Ownership Group who swindled customers by pretending to represent banks that could settle their loans and get their money back, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Lacerda, who was the vice president and chief operating officer, sent fraudulent contracts to customers. The customers, or timeshare owners, were told that the firm would pay off the mortgages on their behalf after receiving large sums of money for the service – a service that never happened. More than a dozen victims testified during the trial that they lost tens of thousands of dollars in the scheme.
“This conviction demonstrates the power the industry and law enforcement have over fraudulent activity when working together as one,” said Robert Clements, ARDA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs. “Our member companies, timeshare owners, law enforcement, the industry, and various federal and state agencies are all working together to stop fraud by enforcing action across the board,” continued Clements.
In addition to ARDA’s advocacy efforts that support stricter laws, enforcement measures and tougher penalties on offenders, ARDA created a Joint Investigative / Enforcement Taskforce last fall to coordinate efforts to minimize fraud in the secondary market.
“A top priority for our industry and owners, and for law enforcement and other agencies, is to protect consumers from dishonest individuals or companies trying to take advantage of them,” said ARDA-ROC Chairman Ken McKelvey. “This verdict sends a strong signal to criminals that fraud and deceptive activities will not be tolerated by our industry and it tells consumers that we take the actions of these individuals very seriously.”
“At Wyndham Vacation Ownership (WVO), we are committed to protecting our owners and the integrity of our industry at large, and we work tirelessly to protect our owners from dishonest individuals and companies who are trying to take advantage of them,” said Jorge de la Osa, executive vice president and general counsel at WVO. “Through our partnership with ARDA and our owners’ support of ARDA-ROC, we will continue to support consumer protection legislation and inform our owners of any scams that may put them at risk. We will not tolerate scam companies that cause harm to our owners, and we will continue to take an aggressive legal approach to bring fraudulent companies and individuals, such as Adam and Ashley Lacerda, to justice.”
ARDA continues to pursue and support appropriate timeshare resale and transfer legislation in an effort to protect owners against fraudulent timeshare schemes. For more information about the timeshare secondary market including resales, visit the ARDA-ROC Timeshare Resale Resource Center at www.arda-roc.org/resales.
The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) is the Washington D.C.-based professional association representing the vacation ownership and resort development industries. Established in 1969, ARDA today has almost 1,000 members ranging from privately held firms to publicly traded companies and international corporations with expertise in shared ownership interests in leisure real estate. The membership also includes timeshare owner associations (HOAs), resort management companies, and owners through the ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC). For more information, visit www.arda.org or ARDA’s consumer website at www.VacationBetter.org.
The ARDA Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC) is a non-profit entity endorsed by the American Resort Development Association and funded by individual timeshare owner’s voluntary contributions, dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enhancing vacation ownership. ARDA-ROC is an alliance of owners, developers, and managers who are committed to advocating for local, state, and federal policies that enable the vacation ownership industry to thrive. For more information, visit http://www.ardaroc.org.