UPCOMING EVENTS: Lopicola pled guilty to this charge on April 9, 2015. He was sentenced on July 16, 2015, to 21 months in prison to be followed by 2 years supervised release. He was also fined $300 and charged a special assessment fee.
On January 23, 2014 a grand jury returned a one count indictment charging Robert Joseph Lopicola with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with telemarketing. The indictment alleged that Lopicola, and others were engaged in an extensive telemarketing scam which operated in Orlando, Florida that bilked thousands of victims of approximately $14.5 million dollars, victimizing consumers throughout the United States, six Canadian Provinces, and the Bahamas. There were at least 47 victims located in the Southern District of Illinois.
The criminal indictment alleges that beginning on or about March 27, 2009, and continuing until on or about October 14, 2009, Lopicola was a telemarketer who worked for C&G Marketing Associates, LLC, a Florida corporation that defrauded consumers using the fictitious name, Premier Timeshare Solutions (“PTS”).
During that time, Lopicola and other PTS employees conducted a fraudulent timeshare resale scheme through the use of telemarketing. PTS telemarketers worked in an office building in West Palm Beach, Florida. From there, they placed phone calls to timeshare owners throughout the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, falsely representing or implying that the company had found someone who wanted to buy their timeshare interest. In exchange for an advance fee that typically exceeded $1,000, the PTS telemarketers promised to handle all the details of the sale and send the victims the proceeds after closing. Once the victims had paid the advance fee, however, usually by giving the telemarketer their credit card information, the fraudulent company simply pocketed the money. There were no interested buyers, the closings did not occur, and the timeshares were not resold. It was, simply put, an act of thievery. To discourage and defeat subsequent chargeback attempts, PTS sent victims written contracts to sign and return – contracts that made no mention of the promised sale and obligated the company merely to provide marketing and advertising services. Because the original sales calls were not recorded, PTS could later claim that marketing and advertising was all that had ever been promised, and that any contrary impression the victim may have formed – for instance, that there was a concrete offer for the customer’s unit or some genuine interest by a qualified buyer – was simply a misunderstanding. Victims who called PTS to check on the status of their transactions were directed to customer service representatives. The role of the PTS customer service department was to perpetuate the fraud by delaying and discouraging chargebacks and complaints. To accomplish that goal, representatives would lie to victims, assuring them that despite some phony, unexpected delay, their timeshare unit was still going to be sold. Repeat callers were given a series of bogus excuses, none of which had any basis in fact. By instilling a false sense of hope, PTS aimed to delay the chargeback process beyond the time that most credit card issuers allow for disputes.
If convicted of the charge, the defendant faces a term of imprisonment of up to twenty five (25) years, a $250,000 fine and five years’ supervised release.
Consumers who believe that they have been the victim of a consumer fraud should call the Federal Trade Commission 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or file an online complaint at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.