Three Las Vegans Charged With Telemarketing Fraud In Association With Promising Grants To Small Business Owners
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Three Las Vegas residents have been indicted by the federal grand jury for allegedly defrauding almost 400 persons of over $5 million in connection with a grant funding telemarketing scheme, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Gregory Villegas, aka Ray Matsui, aka Ray Mathis, 34; Christine M. Gagnon, aka Lisa Foster, aka Crystal Waters, 33; and Mickey Gines, 40, all of Las Vegas, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, and 31 counts of wire fraud. They were arrested in Las Vegas this morning and are scheduled to make initial appearances in court today before United States Magistrate Judge George Foley, Jr. at 2:30 p.m.
According to the court records, Villegas owned and controlled Executive Solutions, Inc. in addition to Business Funding Services Enterprises; BFS Enterprises; Global Business Funding, Inc.; The Grant People; USA Grant Team; USA Grants; National Financial Advisors; US Filing Services, Inc.; US Filings Service, Inc.; USFS, Inc.; Echoe, Inc.; Worldwide Asset Management; Corporate Capital Team; Business Acumen; and Kuff Ltd.
These companies were allegedly involved in the business of grant funding. Gagnon and Gines were officers in some of the companies and were also listed as employees in other grant funding companies that they or Villegas owned or controlled. Beginning in about March 2008 and continuing through May 2, 2012, Villegas, Gagnon, Gines and others engaged in a telemarketing scheme to defraud persons of their money, including at least 10 victims over the age of 55. The defendants employed sales staff to place telemarketing calls and operate websites for the purpose of soliciting fees from small business owners who wished to obtain private and government grants. The defendants and staff allegedly used high pressure sales and lulling tactics and made many types of false statements to customers concerning their ability to deliver grants, when the defendants knew that their true intent was to obtain as much money as possible from the customers, rather than assist them in obtaining grants, and knew that none of their customers had ever received a grant.
In order to avoid lawsuits and detection by law enforcement, the defendants operated their companies under multiple and evolving names and directed their staff to use aliases which they routinely changed in communications with the customers. When the grants failed to materialize, the defendants and staff falsely represented to customers that they were only collecting money for other companies or that delays in funding were caused by circumstances beyond the defendants’ control. In some instances, the defendants agreed to provide partial refunds to customers and fraudulently required the customers to sign release forms stating that the defendants had not engaged in any wrongdoing.
The indictment alleges that through this scheme, the defendants victimized approximately 390 persons throughout the United States, 10 of whom were over the age of 55, and obtained approximately $5.2 million in fraudulently obtained funds.
If convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison on the conspiracy count, plus up to 10 consecutive years for telemarketing to 10 or more persons over the age of 55, and up to 30 years in prison on each wire fraud count, as well as fines of up to $250,000 per count.
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service and FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina M. Brown.
Today's announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to fair trials at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.