SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- Three women from Missouri are among the 60 defendants charged for their roles in a $300 million nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted elderly and vulnerable victims.
A federal grand jury in Minnesota indicted the 60. According to a press release from Minnesota District Attorney Erica MacDonald, three separate indictments were charged in the case. The charges include conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams Act of 1994.
The 60 defendants are located in 14 states, 16 judicial districts, and two Canadian provinces. Three of those are women from Missouri.
One woman from Alton, Missouri, 56-year-old Bonnie Lee Colbert, worked as a telemarketer and has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act. Bonnie was arrested Tuesday.
Two women from Thayer were charged, 60-year-old Yvonne Patterson and 40-year-old Jessica Prince were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act. Patterson owned and operated a company here in Missouri that was involved in fraudulent magazine sales. Prince was a call center manager. Patterson and Prince have not yet been arrested.
According to court documents, Patterson owned and operated Angels LLC, and Colbert was a telemarketer for that company. Prince managed the telemarketing call center for Readers Club of America; a woman in Colorado owned the Missouri-based company.
“This case represents the largest elder fraud scheme in the nation. More than 150,000 elderly and vulnerable victims across the United States have been identified in what is essentially a criminal class action,” said United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald. “Unfortunately, we live in a world where fraudsters are willing to take advantage of seniors, who are often trusting and polite. It’s my hope that this prosecution is a call for vigilance and caution. Combatting elder fraud and abuse is one of the Justice Department’s top priorities, and I applaud our investigative partners for their grit and dedication in tackling, at the systemic level, this widespread fraud.”
According to court documents, over the past 20 years, the 60 devised and carried out a telemarketing scheme to defraud more than 150,000 victim-consumers across the United States.
According to a press release, the scheme was carried out by a network of dozens of fraudulent magazine sales companies located across the United States and in Canada. The companies operated telemarketing call centers where employees made calls using deceptive sales scripts designed to defraud victim consumers by inducing them through lies and misrepresentations, making large or repeat payments to the companies.
MacDonald says many of the defendants used a fraudulent “renewal” script in which the telemarketers falsely claimed to be calling from the victim consumer’s existing magazine subscription company about an existing magazine subscription package.