FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
TUESDAY - MAY 6, 2008
DEFENDANTS IN MOBILE BILLBOARD CASE SENTENCED
RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court Senior United States District Judge W. Earl Britt sentenced five defendants in the Mobile Billboard scheme. MICHAEL A. LOMAS, age unknown, of Pasadena, California, received 240 months’ imprisonment with 3 years supervised release; SCOTT B. HOLLENBECK, 53, of Orlando, Florida received 168 months’ imprisonment with 3 years supervised release following his term of confinement; LAURINDA HOLOHAN, 63, of Concord, Ohio, received 76 month’s imprisonment with 3 years supervised release; SUSAN KNIGHT, 48, of Eastlake, Ohio, received 30 months’ imprisonment with 2 years supervised release; and ARTHUR J. ANDERSON, JR., 49, of Raleigh, North Carolina, received 60 months’ imprisonment with 3 years supervised release. A restitution hearing will be set no more than 90 days from today to determine restitution amounts.
A Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment on May 10, 2007. On February 6, 2008, following a four-week trial, a jury found HOLLENBECK and HOLOHAN guilty of conspiracy and mail fraud. Previously, LOMAS, KNIGHT, and ANDERSON pled guilty; LOMAS to mail fraud, and KNIGHT and ANDERSON to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. MICHAEL L. YOUNG, 61, is a fugitive from justice and is believed to be residing in the United Arab Emirates.
The defendants were involved with Mobile Billboards of America, Inc., which purported to be a legitimate “business opportunity” for investors seeking monthly income during retirement. In exchange for investments in increments of $20,000, investors were promised they would receive “guaranteed” monthly checks based on a return of 13.49% and the return of their entire investment at the end of seven years. Investors were told their $20,000 was used to purchase billboards on the sides of trucks, and that advertising revenue from those billboards was used to make the monthly payments.
In fact, Mobile Billboards was operated as a fraudulent Ponzi scheme, where investments by new investors were used to make payments to previous investors, and to enrich the defendants. In September, 2004, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission sued the company, and it was discovered that Mobile Billboards had almost no advertising revenue compared with the number of investments sold. Further, it was discovered that there were no known billboards operating on the sides of trucks; instead, thousands of unassembled billboard parts were found in a warehouse in Brevard, North Carolina.
Approximately $55 million was taken in through the Mobile Billboards fraud scheme; another $16 million was taken in under the name “National Payphone Corporation.” Investors were solicited by a network of “sales agents” – typically insurance agents.
Defendant HOLLENBECK was an insurance agent and leading salesman of Mobile Billboards, responsible for the sales of approximately $10 million of Mobile Billboards investments, primarily in and around Kernersville, North Carolina. HOLLENBECK received over $2 million in commissions as the result of his sales. HOLLENBECK operated under various corporate names, including “Webb Group” and “Franklin Asset Exchange.”
Defendant HOLOHAN was responsible for the extensive banking transactions that made the scheme possible. She conducted these transactions out of the basement of her home in Newbury, Ohio.
LOMAS, KNIGHT, and ANDERSON also played important roles in Mobile Billboards. LOMAS was the leader of the scheme, and personally received more proceeds from the crime than any other participant, including a Manhattan apartment, a Long Beach, California penthouse, rare collectibles, and luxury automobiles.
KNIGHT was the bookkeeper for Mobile Billboards. ANDERSON was another North Carolina-based salesman for Mobile Billboards. ANDERSON was an insurance agent who worked on Mobile Billboards’ behalf under the corporate names “Legacy Estate Concepts LLC” and “Arthur Anderson Retirement Planning, Inc.”
“The sentences imposed by the Court today send a strong message to those who would prey upon the public, particularly those members of the public who are vulnerable to false promises of “safe” retirement investments. We will aggressively pursue those who would attempt to victimize our citizens through schemes like this. But jail time alone will not make these victims whole again. All our citizens should carefully investigate any investment opportunity. Keep in mind, if a deal sounds to good to be true, it is,” stated Mr. Holding.
Investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the North Carolina Department of State, Securities Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Clay C. Wheeler and Jason H. Cowley handled the prosecution for the United States.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.