United States v. Lacerda, No. 15-2812 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
VOG billed itself as an advocacy group helping victims of timeshare fraud get out of their timeshare debts. A jury determined that VOG had actually defrauded its customers and that three individual defendants (including Lacerda) were each knowing participants in that fraud. Lacerda was sentenced to 324 months’ imprisonment for his leading role in the fraudulent enterprise.
The Third Circuit affirmed the respective convictions and sentences. The court rejected a claim of impermissible “overview testimony” by an FBI agent; an officer who is familiar with an investigation or was personally involved may tell the story of that investigation—how the investigation began, who was involved, and what techniques were used, and, with a proper foundation, may offer lay opinion testimony and testify about matters within his personal knowledge. The district court did not abuse its discretion when it disqualified defense counsel based on a conflict of interest; when it denied replacement counsel’s motion for a continuance; when it excluded from evidence, as hearsay, an email sent by Lacerda to VOG’s former CFO; in exercising its sentencing discretion; or by ordering the forfeiture of all VOG’s gross proceeds.