Pinellas Men Plead Guilty In Telemarketing Scam
Tampa, FL – Troy Cater (30) and David Bell (55), both of St. Petersburg, have pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy. Each faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
Pursuant to their plea agreements, Cater has agreed to pay $145,961.35 and Bell has agreed to pay $268,356, in restitution to the scheme’s numerous victims. In addition, Cater and Bell have consented to forfeiture money judgments in the amounts of $15,000 and $26,000, respectively, which represent the proceeds of the fraud.
According to the plea agreements, from 2015 through 2018, Cater and Bell conspired with others to take money from victims throughout the United States who wanted to sell their timeshare properties or other parcels of land. Other conspirators placed telephone calls to these victims impersonating real estate professionals and misleading the timeshare owners to believe that the conspirators had identified buyers for the victims’ timeshares and other properties. The conspirators further advised the victims that the 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 advance fees, the conspirators directed the victims to send funds via wire transfers to Cater and Bell, who then withdrew the fraud proceeds or hired others to retrieve the proceeds and shared them among the conspirators based on each conspirator’s role in the fraudulent transaction. The conspirators also continued to contact their victims, fraudulently advising them that additional funds were needed in order to complete the sales, and they continued to dupe the victims into sending bogus advance fees until the victims ran out of money or became aware of the scam.
The scam then evolved into a second stage where the conspirators re-contacted the victims via email and, now posing as helpful attorneys, told the victims that they had been defrauded in a timeshare scam. They offered to “represent” the victims against the “first attorneys,” and to obtain settlements on their behalves. Once the conspirators had gained the trust of the timeshare victims in their new roles, they directed the victims to forward additional bogus fees to Cater, Bell, and others. Some victims paid the conspirators several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the purported “litigation,” which Cater and Bell retrieved or had others retrieve at their direction.
Cater and Bell were initially recruited into the scheme by others, including several defendants who have pleaded guilty to related charges. Mark Boring previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. His sentencing hearing is set for March 7, 2019. Martin Steele has pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. His sentencing hearing has not yet been set. Gary Kinard has been sentenced to seven years and eleven months in federal prison for wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft for his role in the scheme.
This case was investigated by the FBI, the St. Petersburg Police Department, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachel K. Jones.