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Attorney charged with timeshare sales fraud conspiracy

A Williamsburg lawyer has been accused by federal authorities of taking part in a scheme to sell multiple timeshare units to straw buyers, generating transaction fees while forcing units into foreclosure.

Deborah M. Wager was named in a criminal information filed in Newport News federal court in May. Wagner’s involvement in the conspiracy took place from 2011 to 2013, the government charged.

The scheme targeted timeshare unit owners and resorts, prosecutors said. The object was to “obtain and then transfer such units into the names of straw owners and others, thereby collecting fees from the original owners of the units and obtaining control over the respective units,” the charge reads.

Conspirators allegedly recruited the straw buyers for fees ranging from about $25 to $50 each. The straw owners were not qualified buyers, the government charges.

The straw owners’ failure to make payments resulted in “default, foreclosure, and substantial losses to the timeshare resort companies, owners associations and affiliated entities,” the charge against Wagner reads.

Court documents in the case of another defendant – already serving a 3-year, 10-month sentence – shed light on the alleged conspiracy.

The plan was to falsely advertise to timeshare owners that their timeshare units could be legitimately transferred, relieving them of regular maintenance fees.

“The defendant did not provide this service free of charge. In many cases, original timeshare owners that were elderly paid thousands of dollars for what amounted to a phantom service,” prosecutors wrote in the case of Brendan J. Hawkins of Williamsburg.

“The defendant pocketed the money and then quickly transferred the timeshare unit into the name of a straw owner, who had no intention or ability to make payments on the maintenance fees or other obligations. The defendant knew that these timeshare units were being transferred to individuals who could not meet the obligations of ownership – he recruited them for this purpose,” the government charged in Hawkins’ case.

Wagner’s precise role in the alleged scheme is not spelled out in the government’s charge, but a document in Hawkins’ court file states that he “engaged a law firm to handle such transfers.”

Wagner’s fraud conspiracy charge carries a possible 20-year sentence.

A hearing scheduled in June was called off, according to docket notes in online court records.

Wagner was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1996, according to her firm’s website. Her law degree is from the University of Illinois and undergraduate degree from Illinois Wesleyan University.

A call for comment to Wagner’s office was not immediately returned.

Wagner is represented by California lawyer Jennifer J. Wirsching and Richmond lawyer Miriam B. Airington. Neither immediately responded to calls for comment.

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