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Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California


United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Release No. 06-058

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

DEFENDANT IN TELEMARKETING SCHEME OFFERING INVESTMENTS IN 'COLLECTIBLES' GETS 7 1/2-YEAR SENTENCE


Los Angeles, CA - A Temple City man who participated in a telemarketing scheme that collected $3.5 million from primarily elderly victims who thought they were investing in various "collectibles" that would be auctioned for huge profits has been sentenced to 90 months in federal prison.

Geoffrey Gallagher, 45, was sentenced Monday afternoon in the scheme related to the now-defunct West Coast Gallery in Covina, which operated from 2002 until it was shut down in early 2005 during the execution of a search warrant by the United States Postal Inspection Service. Gallagher pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and telemarketing fraud against the elderly.

Previously in this case, Alonzo Narvaez, a 27-year-old El Monte resident, and Richard Gilson, a 62-year-old Phelan resident, pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

West Coast Gallery was a telemarketing company that offered customers investments in collectibles, such as rare historical documents and celebrity memorabilia. West Coast Gallery purported to offer investments in inaugural memorabilia from Presidents Reagan and Kennedy, as well as hair cut from the heads of President Washington and Elvis Presley. Gilson was the business owner, while Narvaez and Gallagher acted as "closers" who would speak to victims over the phone in an effort to convince them to invest money in purported collectibles. The telemarketers told victims that their investments were "very safe," that West Coast Gallery clients were averaging a 28.5 percent to 150 percent return on their investments, and that the company would give a refund if a collectible did not sell for a profit within 30 days. The closers attempted to get the investors to make a $2,500 purchase this later rose to $4,000 usually for a particular collectible, such as a letter written by former President Reagan.

All of the representations made by the telemarketers were false, and most of the money raised went to Gilson and the telemarketers. Gallagher has stated in court papers that he spent most of the money he earned on gambling and illegal drugs.

The few collectibles that West Coast Gallery did possess generally came from the eBay Internet auction site for a small price. For example, West Coast Gallery bought a letter written by George Washington on eBay for about $13, and later sold it to a victim for $14,000.

In particular, Gallagher defrauded one elderly victim of approximately $1 million by telling her, among other things, that he would marry her. After the business was shut down and a warrant was issued for Gallagher's arrest, Gallagher evaded capture and continued to defraud some of his previous victims.

Throughout the scheme, West Coast Gallery raised $3.5 million from approximately 150 victims.

All three defendants pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Gary A. Feess. Narvaez is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5, while Gilson is scheduled to be sentenced on May 22.

This case is the result of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service.

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Release No. 06-058

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