Man Pleads Guilty to Taking Funds Intended to Pay Off Mortgages

Allison Tussey —  June 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Ryan E. Bird, a/k/a Chris Jackson, a/k/a Matthew Bross, 35, Clementon, New Jersey, a former employee of The Vacation Ownership Group LLC, admitted to conspiring to defraud owners of timeshare properties.

The defendant pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Noel L. Hillman in federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of wire fraud.

According to documents filed in this case, the plea agreement and statements made in court:

The Vacation Ownership Group, a/k/a VO Group LLC, purported to offer consulting services to owners of timeshares, including timeshare cancellation services. In April 2010, Bird started working at the VO Group and was trained by Adam Lacerda and VO Group managers to call customers using prepared scripts. Bird would call customers and give them the false impression that he was working for a bank or lending institution. Bird then would falsely represent that the VO Group could pay off the customers’ timeshares or have their timeshares cancelled. After hearing Bird’s false representations, some customers sent checks to the VO Group. Bird admitted to causing more than $200,000 in losses.

Bird also admitted to devising a separate scheme to defraud the New Jersey Department of Labor by collecting unemployment compensation benefits while working at the VO Group. Bird pleaded guilty to a count charging him with applying for and collecting $18,104 in unemployment compensation benefits to which he was not entitled.

On January 23, 2013, 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, 13 members of the VO Group, including Bird, 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 Bird 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 charged is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for October 3, 2013.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced the guilty plea.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents from the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; and special agents from the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Panella, New York Region, for their roles in the investigation leading to these guilty pleas. He also thanked the New Jersey Department of Labor, Benefit Payment Control Unit, for its assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alyson M. Oswald and R. David Walk, Jr. of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.

Allison Tussey

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