The following employees of Time Share Mega Media and Marketing Group (“TMMMG), located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have been charged in regards to a telemarketing scheme that targeted time-share unit owners throughout the country:
Scott Faraguna, 41, Charles Blomquist, 52, Peter Borkowicz, 31, Raymond Harcar, 39, James Taylor, 23, Ryan Greene, 23, Jason Hampton, 28, Chris Faccone, 43, Steven Sokoloff, 47, Marco Sguera, 30, Joseph Giancola, 38, Ryan Soltow, 27, and Donna Ackermann Brown, 50.
So far, all 13 have been charged with a one-count criminal indictment for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
In a recent press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Federal prosecutors announced that they are only pursuing a one count indictment for conspiracy to commit mail fraud/wire fraud.
This is a VERY good thing, although I am sure it is subject to change.
First of all, it says a lot about the prosecution’s intentions in this case. Unlike a possession of child pornography case, which is a law enforcement priority and a much more offensive crime, prosecutors did not begin this case with a multi-count indictment.
That means they are not looking for a very lengthy prison sentence.
Given my past experience as a criminal defense lawyer, I would suspect that the worst offenders in this telemarketing scheme would get 2-3 years in prison where as the lesser offenders would either get probation or up to 1.5 years in prison.
Of course, this is just a guess based on my professional experience, not on anything specific about this case. Before any real conclusions can be drawn, a full case analysis that considers the particular facts of this case is needed.
Those charged are accused of participating in a telemarketing boiler room that allegedly existed to defraud time-share unit owners by charging them fees to sell their units. According to paper work filed in federal court, the telemarketers would call time-share unit owners and tell them that they had buyers on hand who wanted to purchase their units in the near/immediate future.
For their service, TMMMG would charge a fee of approximately $2000. This fee was allegedly described to unit owners as a document processing fee or a service fee related to the sale of the time-share.
In reality, Federal prosecutors claim that there never were any interested buyers and that the entire operation existed simply to defraud time-share unit owners out of the “service” or “document” fee.
When customers would complain, TMMMG employees would allegedly string them along for more than 60 days so that they would be delayed in filing a complaint with their credit card companies. It is important to keep in mind that most credit card companies only allow a person to contest a charge for up to 60 days. After 60 days, any complaint would have to be handled as a fraud investigation, which is far more involved, than a simple charge back.
To cover themselves and prevent fraud investigations, TMMMG supposedly refunded the fees to some customers.
However, Federal prosecutors allege that the scheme netted TMMMG approximately $2.4 million between October 2009 and July 2010.
Because the telemarketing scheme including making calls and sending mail from Florida to other states, those involved allegedly violated the mail fraud and wire fraud statute.
In order to prove the crime of Mail Fraud in this case, Federal prosecutors would need to present evidence in trial that the accused mailed any thing/object by U.S. Mail or private/commercial interstate carrier (like FedEx or UPS) to obtain money or property by means of false pretenses.
Technically speaking, prosecutors can charge each person with one count for every incident they participated in. For example, if one person in this scheme used FedEx 37 times to mail documents or other papers to defraud out of state “clients,” he/she can be charged with 37 counts of mail fraud.
This makes a huge differences because mail fraud is punishable by up to 5 years in prison per count. Given the Federal criminal scoring, that is similar to sentencing in Florida, the more counts one is charged with, the more points he/she has. As a result, one’s minimum permissible prison sentence becomes enhanced.
If I were to represent those accused in this case, my goal would be to obtain probation. Unless a great defense leaps out from the FBI reports, cases like these are usually easy for prosecutors to prove.
Being realistic and objective about his/her client’s case is an important part about getting the best result possible for a criminal defense lawyer.
In cases like these, good plea deals are possible at the beginning of a case. When the accused put up a fight, prosecutors respond by filing more charges. This brings up the minimum prison sentence and can also add charges that are indefensible for the client.
Knowing when to fight and when to plea is essential.
Sometimes being too aggressive with a defense can hurt the client and result in the squandering a a great plea opportunity.
Again, no concrete conclusions can be drawn about this or any case, until a full case analysis is performed.
Given all the variables that can take place in a courtroom and in dealings with Federal prosecutors on a case of this type, it would make sense for those accused in this case to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent them.