Pinellas Man Sentenced To More Than Seven Years In Prison In Telemarketing Scam
Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich today sentenced Martin Steele (46, St. Petersburg) to seven years and five months in prison for his role in a telemarketing fraud scam. As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $75,000, the proceeds of the wire fraud conspiracy. The court also directed that Steele pay a total of $1,162,142.68 to the scheme’s victims.
According to court records, from 2016 through at least 2018, Steele conspired with others to extract money from victims throughout the United States who owned timeshare properties or other pieces of land they desired to sell. Steele and other conspirators placed telephone calls to these victims; impersonated attorneys, real estate officers, and other professionals; and misled those timeshare owners to believe the conspirators had buyers for the victims’ timeshares and other property. The conspirators further advised the victims that the timeshare and property sales could be consummated if the victims made one or more advanced payments to the conspirators for various fees purportedly associated with the sales, such as closing costs, courier services, title searches, transfer fees, and legal fees. Once the victims agreed to pay the bogus fees, the conspirators directed the victims to send money via wire transfers to the defendant or another conspirator, who then withdrew the cash and divided it among the conspirators according to each conspirator’s role in the fraudulent transaction. The conspirators often repeatedly contacted the victims, fraudulently advised them that additional fees were needed in order to complete the sales of their respective timeshares, and continued to dupe them into sending bogus advanced fees until the victims either ran out of money or became aware of the scam.
Several related defendants have pleaded guilty to charges related to this timeshare scheme. Gary Kinard and Mark Boring were sentenced to 7 years and 11 months in federal prison, and 7 years in federal prison, respectively, for wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft for their roles in the scheme. David Bell was sentenced to 27 months in prison for money laundering conspiracy relating to his role in the scheme. Troy Cater and Richard Bell have each pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the St. Petersburg Police Department, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachel K. Jones.