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Sunday, December 4, 2011

15 indicted in elaborate Ariz. telemarketing fraud operation

The calls started with an opportunity to work from home and earn $1,000 to $3,000 in the first month.

The scripts were varied, but most pitched the chance to make a lot of money fast and from the comfort of home. "I'm the national recruiting manager with Global Fortune Network and the reason for my call is we've had a position open up in your area ... what Global Fortune Network does is pay you to help people get out of debt," according to the script.

In reality, it was all an elaborate Arizona-based telemarketing fraud operation that stole millions of dollars from thousands of victims nationwide, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Fifteen men and women were recently indicted in Maricopa County Superior Court and face charges that include fraud schemes and artifices, aggravated taking identity of another, illegal control of an enterprise and unlawful telephone solicitation, county Attorney Bill Montgomery said at a news conference Friday.

Scottsdale police worked with the Arizona Electronic Crimes Task Force, a multi-agency group that includes the Secret Service, to take down the complex fraud scheme. Operation Reload started in February when Scottsdale police arrested some people with stolen credit cards.

"It was a joy to put these people away," said Scottsdale police Lt. Jamie Buckler, who oversees the property-crimes unit.

Most victims were out of state and the partnership with the Secret Service was key to go after the crooks, Buckler said. Six fraudulent telemarketing call centers were shut down in Maricopa County, officials said.

Here is how it worked: The telemarketer would persuade the victim to invest in the program with a credit-card number, with the promise that the victim would receive the get-rich information. When the information didn't arrive, the telemarketer would persuade the victim to invest more money. If the victim wasn't interested, the telemarketer maxed out the victim's credit card.

Then the card information was sold at the street level, where, if the victim hadn't canceled his credit card, the criminals used it to make more purchases or withdraw money.

In a recorded conversation, Adam Arnold, who is charged with one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, is heard on tape saying, "It's going to be anyone that pays $29.99. Any moron, essentially, and I say this term because anybody that believes this is a (expletive) moron ... And honestly, do I feel like we're scamming them? No, because if you're (expletive) stupid enough to believe ... I have no sympathy for mankind anymore."

Montgomery called Arnold a "dirt bag" for his "predatory instinct" to go after vulnerable victims.

Officials showed two plastic bags filled with papers with stolen credit-card information and said they had collected 50 bags of information. During a five-day sting operation in September, investigators watched as suspects Jason Woolridge and John Cargal set up a sham account that processed nearly $92,000, officials said.

by Ofelia Madrid The Arizona Republic Dec. 2, 2011 09:53 PM



15 indicted in elaborate Ariz. telemarketing fraud operation

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