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News : Telemarketing Scheme Targeted Homeowners
San Diego, Dec 3, 2013 -- Two telemarketers involved in an Oceanside mortgage-fraud scheme that prosecutors say raked in more than $11 million from homeowners were sentenced in San Diego federal court Tuesday to prison.
Shelveen Singh, a lead telemarketer for 1st American Law Center who pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in the operation.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez called the Corona resident a "dirty businessman" who preyed on especially vulnerable victims, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The scheme offered promises of remodifying mortgages and encouraged telemarketers to say basically anything to close a sale, court documents say.
Empty promises included claims of being in business for more than 20 years, ensuring a money-backed guarantee, and assurances that their funds wouldn’t be touched until complete customer satisfaction, prosecutors said.
Instead, that money was funneled out of the accounts to pay employees or company expenses, court documents say. Callers who asked to speak with other customers were secretly transferred to employees, who posed as satisfied customers, according to the documents.
Singh, 26, went further, withdrawing funds without clients’ permission and threatening them with physical harm. He even impersonated a law enforcement officer and threatened clients with arrest if they didn’t pay their fees.
The scheme defrauded more than 4,000 homeowners, prosecutors said.
During the sentencing, Benitez noted a previous case in which Singh was required to pay restitution to victims, but instead racked up personal credit card expenses, bought a Mercedes and filed for bankruptcy, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Kelly Thornton.
Johnathon Hearn, a 31-year-old Oceanside resident who also worked as a telemarketer, was sentenced to two years in prison for his lesser role.
Others have already been sentenced in the case: Gary Bobel got 92 months in custody; Scott Thomas Spencer 43 months; and Travis Iverson two years.
Two others are headed for trial: the law center’s co-owner and attorney, Dean Gregory Chandler, and call center manager Michael Eccles. They are charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, telemarketing fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Their next court date is in March.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Power Hour
Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013