Indianapolis Man Sentenced for Mail Fraud Conspiracy
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 15, 2011|
Brian A. Bunnell was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Bunnell, 44, of Indianapolis, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Christopher A. Boyko. He was convicted on June 28, 2011, following a trial.
He was charged on July 12, 2010, with the conspiracy to commit mail fraud involving defrauding individuals enticed to purchase memberships in a consumer buying club known as Midwest Direct which operated in Canton, Ohio.
Bunnell was one of three partners in Midwest charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The other two partners pleaded guilty to the charge before Judge Boyko and testified in the trial of Bunnell. Bunnell also was a part owner in related clubs in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Oakwood Village, Ohio, and Sharonsville, Ohio.
It was charged that Midwest and Bunnell falsely promised that Midwest could obtain merchandise directly from manufacturers and suppliers allowing club members to save substantial sums of money by purchasing a variety of merchandise at greatly discounted prices, whereas, in truth, the members could not, and did not, save to the extent promised, according to court documents.
The United States mails were used by Midwest to send postcards and letters to prospective purchasers of memberships which offered a chance on winning a prize. Persons who visited the premises of Midwest Direct were subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch promoting the benefits of membership in Midwest Direct at a yearly membership cost ranging from $899 to $2,499, depending on how much the salesmen could extract from the prospective members, according to court documents.
Based on the evidence produced at trial, Judge Boyko found that the Midwest operation took in more than $9 million from over 6,600 individuals from the sale of memberships at the stores located in Oakwood Village and Canton, Ohio, from 2001 through April 2006. In April of 2006, the Midwest operations were closed down when the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized the records of the company in Canton, Ohio.
Judge Boyko permitted Bunnell to remain out on bond pending notification from the Bureau of Prisons advising when Bunnell should report to begin serving his sentence.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James C. Lynch, following an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, Cleveland, Ohio, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mansfield, Ohio.