Charges Brought In Candy Vending Machine Scam
Las Vegas, Nev. – Three individuals were indicted by the Federal Grand Jury today on charges that they fraudulently sold "business opportunities" to own and operate candy vending machines, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
PATRICK ABEYTA, JR., age 44, of Polvadera, New Mexico, PAUL BOURASSA, age 41, of Lowell, Massachusetts, and GARY VAN HAVERMAET, age 43, of Henderson, Nevada, are charged with Conspiracy and Wire Fraud. GARY VAN HAVERMAET is also charged with making a false declaration to the Grand Jury. PATRICK ABEYTA was the owner of Success Vending Group, Inc. ("Success"), which operated a sales room in Las Vegas from approximately January 2004 until February 2005. PAUL BOURASSA and GARY VAN HAVERMAET were Success salesmen.
The Indictment charges that Success purported to sell candy vending machines, along with assistance in establishing, maintaining, and operating a vending machine business. The Indictment alleges that the defendants enticed consumers across the United States to buy the candy vending machine business opportunities by
- providing baseless profit projections;
- falsely claiming that excellent locations for the machines were available in the consumer's area;
- encouraging potential customers to call fake "references" who pretended to be satisfied Success customers, even though they did not own vending machines or had been given their machines by the company for free; and
- exaggerating the company's longevity.
The Indictment also charges that the defendants failed to disclose to potential customers that several of Success' salesmen had previously been convicted of federal fraud charges and that PATRICK ABEYTA had in 2001 been ordered by a federal judge in New Mexico to stop many of the same sales practices in connection with National Vending Consultants, Inc., a predecessor company that PATRICK ABEYTA owned and that in 2004 morphed into Success. In addition, the Indictment charges that Success invited new customers to Las Vegas for "training," during which PAUL BOURASSA and other employees posed as successful customers in an effort to sell dollar bill-changing machines.
Gary Taylor, 54, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pled guilty in March 2006 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with his activity as a salesman and fake reference for Success. Taylor, who is currently in prison on unrelated charges, is scheduled to be sentenced on January 17, 2007, by U.S. District Judge Lloyd D. George.
From January 2003 through February 2005, the time period charged in the conspiracy, Success raised approximately $7 million from hundreds of consumers throughout the United States. Success went out of business in February 2005 as the result of a civil complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission against PATRICK ABEYTA and several other corporate and individual defendants who are not charged in the criminal case. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones ordered the civil defendants to pay a $9.2 million judgment, although the government is still working to collect that money.
The defendants were summoned, and are scheduled to make an initial appearance in court on Thursday, December 21, 2006, at 8:30 a.m. before United States Magistrate Judge Robert J. Johnston.
The case is being investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by Patrick Jasperse and Alan Phelps, Trial Attorneys with the United States Department of Justice's Office of Consumer Litigation in Washington, D.C.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.