Alleged Business Scammers Indicted After Nationwide Scheme to Defraud Investors, Including Elderly, of More than $30M
Fordham Pleads Guilty To Mail Fraud Scheme With More Than 1,600 Victims Throughout The Nation
SALT LAKE CITY – In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 7-13, 2019), the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City held a media roundtable Wednesday morning advocating for victims of elder abuse in Utah and around the country. Elder abuse includes crimes such as physical abuse and financial exploitation.
Joining U.S. Attorney John Huber at the roundtable discussion were Nan Mendenhall, State of Utah Director of Adult Protective Services, Alan Ormsby, State Director of AARP Utah, and Jared Bingham, Team Leader of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Utah.
“Attorney General William B. Barr reminded us a few weeks ago that crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society. No one is immune from these schemes,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today. “While victims of any crime deserve justice, we decided to focus our victim rights week energy on our continuing efforts to educate our older adults and their families about signs of elder abuse. This effort remains one of the top priorities for the Department of Justice and my office.”
According to a Department of Justice report provided to Congress, it is widely estimated that at least one in 10 people in the United States suffers from some form of elder abuse. The abuse can be physical, psychological, or financial. Each year, an estimated $3 billion is stolen from millions of American seniors through fraudulent financial investment schemes, grandparent scams, fake prizes, romance scams, and fraudulent IRS refunds – among others. Older Americans are targeted because fraudsters believe that is where the money is, they are more accessible after retirement, and they may be more trusting.
For example, sentencing will be June 6, 2019, in a Utah case involving a Las Vegas man who devised a direct mail fraud scheme involving at least 1,693 victims nationwide – many of whom are elderly and disabled. The total loss amount in the case is $1,834,033.15.
Daron Howell Fordham, age 50, of Las Vegas, Nevada, entered guilty pleas to six counts of mail fraud in federal court in Salt Lake City on March 28, 2019. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson presided at the hearing. Fordham pleaded guilty to all counts included in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in October 2018. The plea agreement includes a stipulated sentence of 72 months in federal prison, subject to the approval and acceptance of the court.
The six victims of the mail fraud counts in the case are between 65 and 91 years old.
Fordham, aka Southboy, Daron Destiny, Paul Park, James Parker, Daron Howell and Darren Fordham, admitted that as a part of his fraud scheme, he opened a private mailbox at the UPS Store in Park City in May 2014, using the business name Park Publishers and Distributors. He requested that all mail received at the mailbox be forwarded to his address in California.
He used the mail to send promotional materials to individuals throughout the United States, including residents of Utah. The mailers offered an opportunity to make money through a “direct partner program” called “Paul Park’s Profit Program” and listed the Park City mailbox as the company address for responses. As a part of his plea agreement, Fordham admitted his mailers induced people to send money to the Park City mailbox. The mail was immediately forwarded to him in California. Some individuals made electronic payments.
Fordham admitted making fraudulent claims and guarantees to induce individuals to invest, including “I’ll show you how you can earn up to 976% return (or more) on your money in less than 120 days… And without you even having to lift a finger to do work at all.” He also encouraged them to invest in the printing and mailing of “our hot-selling FREE CRUISE FOR TWO VOUCHERS (sample included with the letter) that are used by businesses all across the country.”
Fordham told investors “WE DO ALL THE WORK! You decide how many Mailing Spots you want now and you’ll receive your Principal Check and PROFIT Check in less than 90 days. Trust me. You’ll be upset if you miss this one.”
He told investors, according to the plea agreement, they could get more than a 1,000% return on their money by investing $500 and getting a return of $5,570.
Fordham admitted he obtained at least $203,866.25 through his Park Publishers fraud
scheme. After about six months, he closed the mailbox in Park City and disconnected the 1-800 number, leaving victims unable to reach him. He never sent them vouchers or returned any money he received from the victims, despite receiving heartfelt letters requesting a refund. As a part of the plea agreement, he said he did on occasion purchase “a few gift cards and sent them to victims that complained the most in an attempt to appease them.”
The six mail fraud counts of conviction relate to the Park City financial fraud scheme.
Fordham admitted that in the year 2014, he had at least eight different variations of this scheme ongoing using different names, private mailboxes, and phone numbers. He admitted he obtained $1,596,642.14 through his fraudulent mailer schemes January through November 2014.
He admitted he continued to operate his fraudulent scheme until his Nov. 9, 2018, arrest in Las Vegas. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement officers found an apartment full of promotional material similar to the Park Publishers scheme but with different variations. Fordham admitted he was operating schemes called “Monster Gift Cards” and “AGS Gift Cards.” He fraudulently obtained at least $239,516 from these schemes.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office are prosecuting the case. Inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Salt Lake City are investigating the case.