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Friday, September 30, 2016

Florida Business Owner Charged in Telemarketing-Related Fraud Scheme

A Florida business owner was charged in an indictment unsealed today with participating in a scheme that sold the personal information of tens of thousands of individuals to fraudulent telemarketers, who in turn used the information to target potential victims for various fraudulent telemarketing schemes.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa, Florida, Field Office made the announcement.

Ronald John Mendleski, 72, of Bokeelia, Florida, was charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud.  He self-surrendered to the U.S. Marshals and will make his initial appearance later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carol Mirando of the Middle District of Florida.  A trial date has not yet been set.

According to the indictment, beginning in approximately 2009, Mendleski operated an enterprise whose principal business was selling personal information—including names, phone numbers and addresses—to telemarketers.  Mendleski allegedly specialized in providing in “sweepstakes leads,” which are the phone numbers and personal information of individuals who have responded to mass mailings notifying recipients that they have purportedly won or are about to win, expensive prizes and enormous cash payouts. 

The indictment alleges that many of Mendleski’s clients provided information indicating that they intended to use the sweepstakes leads to defraud people; at least one client told Mendleski directly that he intended to engage in fraud.  Nonetheless, Mendleski sold the requested personal information to his clients, knowing they would use the information to victimize vulnerable individuals.

Over the course of the scheme, Mendleski allegedly earned approximately $2 million by selling personal information to scammers.  Many of the senior citizens identified by Mendleski were in fact subsequently defrauded.  

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI is investigating this matter.  Trial Attorney Timothy A. Duree of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.

Updated September 30, 2016