Fraudulent Business Opportunity Owner Sentenced in Miami
Consumers Lost More Than $5 Million as a Result of Scheme
WASHINGTON – Robert Nicol was sentenced this week in connection with a series of Utah-based business opportunity fraud ventures, the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced. Nicol was sentenced by Miami Federal District Court Judge Patricia A. Seitz to a term of 125 months in prison and three years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay more than $5.2 million in restitution to victims of his offense.
Beginning in approximately January 2003, Nicol and his accomplices promoted business opportunities to consumers across the country under the business name Table Top Vending Inc. and, later, Gold Star Vending Inc. Potential buyers were told that they would receive everything needed to operate a profitable business. The business involved placing table top games into restaurant and other locations and collecting the coins patrons fed into those games. Nicol and other salesmen falsely promoted the venture as a high profit business and told potential buyers to contact references, who claimed to operate highly successful table top games. References used fake names and lied about their experiences with the business opportunity. In reality, consumers lost more than $5 million to the scheme.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service executed a search warrant on the offices of Gold Star Vending in February 2007. Robert Nicol later fled the country. In March 2010, Nicol was apprehended in a remote location in the Philippines and the Republic of the Philippines deported him back to United States to face the charges pending against him.
Nicol is the last of seven defendants to be convicted and sentenced in connection with Gold Star Vending. Others charged included Seth Lehrenbaum, who provided Nicol with fraudulent references for the scheme and Nicol’s son, Charles Nicol, who served as a Table Top Vending and Gold Star Vending salesmen. Lehrenbaum and Charles Nicol were sentenced to 78 months’ and 41 months in prison, respectively.
“This defendant used his business opportunity scam to target those trying to make an honest living, and then fled to the Philippines when his fraud was discovered,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “As this stiff sentence demonstrates, we will see to it that fraudsters who cheat others to make a quick buck cannot escape justice.”
“In recent years, over 100 individuals have been convicted and sentenced for business opportunity fraud in this District,” said Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Fraudulent telemarketers must realize that all financial fraud will be prosecuted vigorously.”
“Fraudsters can run but they cannot hide. Robert Nicol joins a growing number of business opportunity defendants the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with prosecutors, have brought to justice after being apprehended in other countries,” said Henry Gutierrez, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge in Miami. “This investigation illustrates the Postal Inspection Service’s firm resolve to protect the American public from financial fraud through the mails.”
Assistant Attorney General West and U.S. Attorney Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Postal Inspection Service. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Assistant Director Richard Goldberg of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Consumer Protection Litigation.