LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today returned an indictment against a West Los Angeles man who allegedly ran a decade-long telemarketing scam primarily targeting elderly victims that fraudulently obtained more than $4.5 million via false promises to help victims sell or rent their timeshare properties.
Michael Alexai Dragunov, 44, whose aliases include “Michael Anthony Farole,” “Michael LeFleur,” “Victor Romano,” and “James Logan,” is charged in the 10-count indictment along with Christopher Michael Lang, 42, of Hays, Kansas, whose aliases include “Scott Graham,” “Don Lewis,” and “Jack Morgan.”
Both defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and email marketing targeting the elderly.
Dragunov was arrested on a federal criminal complaint in this matter on June 28 and was ordered jailed without bond. His arraignment is scheduled for July 18 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Lang was arrested in Kansas on June 28 and is expected to be arraigned in Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
According to the indictment, from August 2013 to June 2023, Dragunov and Lang purported to represent companies that provided advertising and other services to current or former timeshare owners. The companies included Premier Marketing LLC, CML Marketing Specialists Inc., Condo Rental Associates LLC, and Paramount Media LLC.
Dragunov and Lang allegedly contacted victims, many of whom were elderly, and, to conceal the fraudulent scheme and their true identities, the defendants also used Skype messaging service phone numbers and used aliases instead of their true names.
Victims allegedly were induced to enter into agreements with the defendants’ telemarketing companies – agreements that were formalized in documents that were faxed or sent electronically – by falsely representing that the telemarketing companies would assist the victims with selling or renting their timeshare properties for a “one time” advertising fee.
Despite the recurring fees that each victim paid, often reaching the hundreds of thousands over several years, no victim received the timeshare-related services or proceeds promised, the indictment alleges.
To dupe victims into sending them more money, Dragunov and Lang allegedly told their victims a series of lies, including that the fees being requested would be refunded or reimbursed to the victims upon completion of the sale or rental of the victims’ timeshare, that the victims still owed taxes on the timeshare properties, and if the victims tried to dispute their payments to the telemarketing companies, the victims would automatically lose their disputes and lose all funds paid and any proceeds from a sale or rental of their timeshares.
To create the false impression that the telemarketing companies were legitimate, Dragunov and Lang pretended to be the companies’ customers and engaged in hundreds of phony small transactions with the companies’ payment processing accounts, according to the indictment.
Dragunov and Lang also allegedly concealed material facts from the victims, including the fact that their money was being used to personally enrich themselves.
If convicted of all charges, Dragunov and Lang would face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for each count.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation are investigating this matter. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the Henry County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Department; Hays (Kansas) Police Department; and United States Marshals Service provided substantial assistance.
Assistant United States Attorney Julia Hu of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting this case.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 3 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Time. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice.