Seven Persons Charged in Telemarketing Scheme Targeting Small Business Owners
LAS VEGAS, NV—Seven persons have been charged by the federal grand jury in Las Vegas with using fraud and deception to steal money from small business owners who thought they were receiving assistance in obtaining grants for their businesses, announced U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada and Laura A. Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Nevada.
Mark L. Bausch, aka Mark Eting, 40, Alan W. Rodrigues, 55, David Bergstrom, 49, Jonas Bowen, 61, Rachel Glaser, 74, Lee Panelli, 66, all of the Las Vegas area, and Craig Rudolph, 43, of Wonder Lake, Ill., are charged in a criminal indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 31 counts of wire fraud. Bausch and Rodrigues are also charged with six counts of money laundering. Defendants Bausch, Rodrigues, Glaser, and Panelli were arrested this morning in Las Vegas. They appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy J. Koppe and pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were released on personal recognizance bonds with conditions pending trial. Defendant Rudolph was arrested in Chicago this morning and will be scheduled for a court appearance in Las Vegas in the near future. Defendants Bergstrom and Bowen are scheduled to surrender to federal authorities next week.
“Paying money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift, is a risky proposition,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “You should always ask yourself if you have any guarantee that the person requesting your money will use it in the manner upon which you agreed. If the opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
“Today’s arrests highlight the FBI’s commitment to investigate financial crimes and the continued need for consumers to be cautious and protect themselves,” said Special Agent in Charge Bucheit.
According to the indictment, from about 2007 to 2010, the defendants allegedly organized and operated four telemarketing companies, Small Business Funding Co., Inc., Company Funds, Inc., Foundation Research, Inc., and Silver State Holding Company. In exchange for fees, the defendants offered to help small business owners obtain grants from public and private entities. The defendants made false statements and promises to the victims to make it appear that they were likely to or guaranteed to receive a grant. The defendants hired salespersons to market the services and to provide false information to the customers. In order to convince the customers that the service was legitimate, the defendants instructed their employees to conduct research about funding entities and send letters to customers and funders, knowing that many of the customers would not qualify for the grants. The defendants also solicited customers by conducting seminars throughout the United States. Through the entire scheme, the telemarketing companies received numerous complaints, and the defendants made false statements to them to prevent or delay them from contacting law enforcement. The defendants used the proceeds from the scheme to enrich themselves.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison on all counts. Additionally, there is a maximum $250,000 fine on the conspiracy and each wire fraud count, and a maximum fine of $500,000 on each money laundering count.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel R. Schiess.
This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.com.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.