TWO FLORIDA MEN INDICTED FOR THEIR ROLE IN TELEMARKETING SCAM
Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that on September 21, 2011, the grand jury returned separate indictments against Kenneth Foote, 30, of Lake Worth, Florida, and Joseph Grizzanti, 40, of Greenacres, Florida. The indictments charge each defendant with one count of Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud.
Foote and Grizzanti are the seventh and eighth defendants charged in prosecutions arising out of a Florida based telemarketing scam operating under the name Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions targeting owners of timeshares throughout the United States. The indictments allege that Foote and Grizzanti were telemarketers who worked for one of the offices that operated under the Creative Vacation Solutions umbrella. Foote is alleged to have bilked approximately 40 victims out of approximately $79,052.55, while Grizzanti allegedly bilked approximately 78 victims out of approximately $156,000. In previous court filings related to the Universal Marketing Solutions/Creative Vacation Solutions scam, the government has alleged that the overall scam bilked over 22,000 victims of $30 million dollars. Previous court filings have also alleged that the scam victimized consumers in all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, all ten Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territory of Canada, and twenty eight (28) of the thirty eight (38) counties comprising the Southern District of Illinois.
The criminal indictments allege that telemarketers for Creative Vacation Solutions placed cold calls to timeshare owners and then falsely represented that their company had actual buyers for the owners’ timeshare property. Telemarketers then solicited advanced fees of up to several thousand dollars from each victim in purported closing costs that they promised would be refunded to the owner once the closing on the property occurred. Many timeshare owners were told that their closings were scheduled within the next sixty to ninety days. Despite collecting fees from 22,000 victims, these companies were not successful in selling a single timeshare unit, the indictments allege. Defendants and their co-conspirators, the indictments allege, simply pocketed the closing costs.
The indictments allege that Foote and Grizzanti participated in the scheme during 2009. Other court filings allege that the larger scheme operated between 2007 and 2010.
Foote and Grizzanti each face a penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to five years, if convicted.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, each defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.
Six other Defendants have also been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois in previous court filings related to Universal Marketing Solutions and Creative Vacation Solutions. On June 30, 2011, Jennifer Kirk, alleged to be a principal of both companies, plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for her role in the alleged scam. Her sentencing is scheduled for January 9, 2012, in East St. Louis. On August 17, 2011, a federal grand jury charged Ryan Brazel, Brian Morris and Steve Folan in a multi-count indictment for their alleged involvement in the alleged scheme. On August 19, Joel Intravaia plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for his involvement in the alleged scam. His sentencing is scheduled for December 9, 2011, in East St. Louis. On September 8, 2011, Ralph Edward Johnson plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for his role in the alleged scam. His sentencing is scheduled for December 16, 2011.
The indictments follow an investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service which was assisted by the Boynton Beach (Florida) Police Department and the Florida Attorney General’s office. The prosecution of these cases is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce E. Reppert.