Feds: 'Joey Cigars' and his mom participated in $4 million timeshare fraud

A convicted felon nicknamed "Joey Cigars" and his mother have been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their alleged roles in a Fort Lauderdale timeshare resale company described by federal authorities as a scam.

Joseph Crapella is accused of running the day-to-day operations of Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group, a business that raked in more than $4 million as it exploited cash-strapped timeshare owners looking to unload their costly vacation rentals, court records show. Federal authorities said the company's telemarketers lied to customers about having buyers for their timeshares, pressuring them to send money to secure the deals.

There's no evidence Timeshare Mega Media sold even one timeshare unit, the FBI alleges in court records. The Federal Trade Commission has called the business a "naked fraud" and obtained a $2.7 million judgment against the company in April.

While Crapella oversaw the business, his mother, Patricia Walker, dealt with customers' applications and complaints, court records show. Former Timeshare Mega Media employees allege Crapella and Walker knew telemarketers were lying to customers to make sales.

Crapella and Walker, 65, are the 25th and 26th people affiliated with Timeshare Mega Media to face criminal charges. Twenty-three former employees have cut plea deals resulting in sentences ranging from time on probation to five years in prison. Another former employee died as his case was pending.

Crapella would attempt to intimidate employees by claiming to have ties to organized crime, once warning a worker not to steal because "we are Italians from New York and you might end up in the back of a trunk," according to Crapella's criminal complaint.

He spent more than seven years in Florida prisons after he was convicted in 2000 of racketeering and grand theft for duping people into paying for vending machines he never delivered, court records show.

Crapella's arraignment was scheduled for Friday morning at the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse, but was postponed.

A single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud can carry up to five years in prison.

The Federal Trade Commission has alleged Crapella ran Timeshare Mega Media with Pasquale "Posh" Pappalardo. Pappalardo, 60, and his wife agreed last year to surrender the proceeds from the sale of his Coral Springs condo in exchange for not being held liable for the $2.7 million judgment in the FTC case.

The Pappalardos' attorney, Neil G. Taylor, has said his clients were only investors in Timeshare Mega Media and had no role in the company's operations and no knowledge of criminal activities. The Pappalardos have never been charged.

"Here we are four years later and my clients adamantly have maintained they had nothing to do with this," Taylor said on Friday.

Timeshare Mega Media operated from October 2009 to May 2010 during the heyday of timeshare resale fraud in the state. The Florida Attorney General's Office received 12,257 timeshare resale complaints in 2010 alone.

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