Federal authorities have again charged a Williamsburg lawyer with taking part in a scheme to collect fees for selling timeshares to phantom or “straw” purchasers.
The alleged scheme was responsible for more than $1.3 million in losses to resorts because the purported purchasers never took ownership or made any resort payments, prosecutors said in a news release.
Attorney Deborah M. Wagner of Williamsburg was first named in a criminal information in May. An indictment followed on Thursday, and Wagner was arrested Friday, court records show.
The alleged scheme played on the desire of owners to dump their timeshares with the associated monthly maintenance fees, prosecutors said. Owners paid fees to unload their timeshares.
One of the businesses in the alleged scheme was called “Goodbye Timeshares.”
Since willing buyers were few, the alleged conspirators recruited straw buyers or used stolen identities for purchasers, prosecutors said. The scheme involved false promises and other deception to keep resorts and lenders from questioning the sales, the government said.
Wagner’s role – from 2011 to 2013 – was handling real estate loan closings, prosecutors said.
“It is alleged that she transferred many timeshare units into the names of stolen identities and straw owners, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the affected resorts due to lost maintenance fees and taxes,” the news release said.
Wagner’s indictment seeks forfeiture of $451,727 and a Williamsburg home.
Three people already have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced in the scheme. One participant received more than six years in prison. Wagner faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted on each of the fraud counts and a mandatory minimum term of 24 months in prison on aggravated identity theft charges.
Wagner is represented by Andrew A. Protogyrou and James O. Broccoletti of Norfolk.
Wagner was admitted in Virginia in 1996, according to her firm’s website. She is active and in good standing with the Virginia State Bar, according to the VSB.