Myrtle Beach resident Dennis Nadeau, who worked for a “timeshare rescue” company that stole millions of dollars from customers hoping to get rid of their vacation properties, is facing allegations of witness tampering in the fraud trial of that company’s founders.
Nadeau was arrested this week after investigators said he telephoned victims of the Vacation Ownership Group LLC -- also known as the VO Group -- in an attempt to interfere with their testimony in last year’s trial of company founders Adam and Ashley Lacerda.
During an initial federal court appearance Friday in Florence, Nadeau told Magistrate Judge Thomas Rogers that he understands the charges against him and wishes to have his preliminary hearing in New Jersey, the state where VO Group was located. A public defender was appointed to represent Nadeau, who was given a $75,000 unsecured bond. He is scheduled to make another court appearance July 10 in New Jersey.
A jury in September found the Lacerdas guilty of a combined 19 felony charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. The couple has not been sentenced, although prosecutors recently asked a judge to issue an $11.9 million judgment against the couple -- the amount of money VO Group fraudulently obtained between 2009-11.
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Adam Lacerda, a former Myrtle Beach area timeshare salesman, formed the Egg Harbor Township, N.J.- based VO Group in 2009 purportedly to help timeshare owners who had been taken advantage of by high-pressure sales tactics, according to court documents. VO Group promised its customers that it could cancel their timeshare deeds for a fraction of the contract cost, but the company never helped anyone and the Lacerdas and other company employees kept the money for themselves.
Many of the 225 victims that investigators interviewed were elderly, “causing them to be more vulnerable to the scheme,” court documents state.
According to a criminal complaint in Nadeau’s case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided the Lacerdas and their lawyers with discovery materials for the preparation of their trial. Those materials included forms summarizing the FBI’s interviews with VO Group victims.
Ashley Lacerda told Nadeau to call victims who were listed in the FBI documents in an attempt to trick them into making statements that would hurt the prosecution’s case, according to the complaint. Nadeau allegedly called several of the potential witnesses and secretly recorded the conversations, attempting to get them to say the VO Group was not at fault because the customer had failed to follow the company’s instructions. Nadeau also attempted to get some customers to say the VO Group’s failure to cancel timeshare contracts was due to the FBI investigation, the complaint states.
Some of the people Nadeau allegedly called testified during the Lacerdas’ trial. Nadeau faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of witness tampering.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281 or via twitter at @David_Wren_