Julie L. Duffield, 45, Eureka, Montana, owner and operator of Professional Closing Company, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud concerning her role in an identity theft and straw buyer scheme.
Duffield was indicted by a federal grand jury on November 17, 2014. Duffield faces a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 5, 2015.
In a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Duffield admits to owning and operating Professional Closing Company, a business that among other things provided closing serviced for the transfers of timeshare units from 2010 until 2013. This business was operated at various times from Arizona and Montana and prior to 2010 Duffield provided such services through another company.
A timeshare unit, generally a fully furnished resort accommodation, is a deeded or non-deeded interest in real estate divided into intervals, most commonly by week. As alleged in the indictment, co-defendant 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”).
Since at least 2007, EET conducted timeshare transfers in exchange for a fee charged to the original owner. It is alleged that Keith Kosco and his employees represented that the timeshare unit transfers conducted by EET would be legitimate and result in clean title passing to a new owner with no further obligations of timeshare ownership (including maintenance fees) on the original owner once the transfer was complete. Transfer paperwork was handled by EET in coordination with Duffield and Professional Closing Company which served as a third party closing entity from 2007 through at least mid-2013. Duffield received a fee from EET for engaging in such services.
Beginning in 2009, EET used the names of stolen identities and straw owners as the new owners for the transferred timeshare units. Duffield and others accomplished the transfers by having a fraudulent deed and contract produced to document the sale, sending the documents by mail to the previous owners and then to the resort company. Upon completion of the transfers maintenance fee bills were sent to the new purported owners of the timeshares. Those mailings were collected by EET at a post office and the majority of the fees were never paid.
For a number of years Duffield and other employees used the stolen identity of “SL” as a grantee for transfers of timeshare units. “SL” was unaware that hundreds of timeshare units were being transferred to “SL’s” name. Duffield handled approximately 459 transfers of timeshare units to “SL.” Due to the number of units transferred to “SL,” certain resort companies raised objections to subsequent EET efforts to transfer units. Duffield and others contacted the resorts falsely claiming to be “SL” in order to accomplish the timeshare transfer. When it became evident that “SL” could no longer be used to transfer timeshares, Duffield recruited “FS” and “AG” to participate as straw buyers. Approximately 252 timeshare units were transferred to “FS” and 63 units were transferred to “AG.”
From 2009 through 2013, Duffield and others caused the transfer of over one thousand timeshare units into the names of stolen identities and straw owners causing losses to various resort companies. During this same time period EET collected fees related to the fraudulent transfers in excess of $600,000,
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Royce E. Curtin, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian J. Samuels is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.