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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index
    Release No. 07-008

    January 17, 2007

    U.S.-CANADIAN INVESTIGATION LEADS TO ARREST OF COUPLE ACCUSED OF TELEMARKETING FRAUD TARGETING ELDERLY

    Los Angeles, CA - A Canadian couple has been arrested on federal fraud charges for allegedly bilking elderly victims across the United States by using telemarketers who sold bogus credit card protection plans.

    Mark Eldon Wilson, 45, and Carrie Hope, 31, of Kelowna, British Columbia, were arrested Monday without incident by officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Wilson and Hope are being held in the custody of Canadian law enforcement.

    The couple was charged in an indictment with wire fraud, mail fraud and telemarketing fraud against the elderly. The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Project Emptor Task Force, which focuses on cross-border scams in Canada and the United States.

    According to the indictment filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, Wilson and Hope ran a telemarketing scheme from 1998 through early 2001 in White Rock, British Columbia. Doing business as American Fraud Watch Services and Debt Service International, Wilson and Hope hired telemarketers to sell fraudulent credit card protection programs to customers in Los Angeles and across the United States.

    As part of the sales pitch, the telemarketers falsely told victims that they were affiliated with their credit card companies. Using scripts written and approved by Wilson, they advised victims that for a fee of up to $299 they would receive protection from fraudulent charges on their credit cars. The telemarketers failed to tell victims that United States law limits liability to $50 if a credit card is fraudulently used. The telemarketers instructed victims to read their card numbers for verification purposes, which enabled the defendants to charge the fee to the credit cards, even if the victims had not give authorization.

    Authorities estimate that the scheme took in more than $10 million from thousands of victims.

    The United States has requested the extradition of Wilson and Hope from Canada.

    This case was investigated by the Project Emptor Task Force in British Columbia. The Task Force focuses on cross-border scams, including bogus lottery sweepstakes, bond scams and credit card protection schemes. Participating agencies include the FBI, the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the Canadian Competition Bureau and the British Columbia Consumer Protection Authority.

    In recent years, the Task Force has obtained more than 40 indictments and has convicted dozens of defendant on charges ranging from wire fraud, mail fraud, mailing materials related to lotteries and telemarketing fraud against the elderly. The arrests have taken place in British Columbia, Alberta, Montreal, Nigeria and the United States. Furthermore, the Task Force works with Canadian civil investigators and Canadian law enforcement to seize telemarketers' assets, including bank accounts, property and luxury vehicles. The Federal Trade Commission works with the Project Emptor Task Force to return victims' funds seized in Canada and the United States.

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    Release No. 07-008
    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index