Three men were convicted Friday of fraud and tax offenses for their participation in a $5-million telemarketing scam in which hundreds of customers were sold phony rights to precious metals.
A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Matthew Lothian, 28, of Newport Beach; Lester Charles Thompson, 45, and Mark Stephen Ott, 24, of Sunrise, Fla., for their roles in an Orange County telemarketing scam in 1985 and 1986. The defendants were convicted of mail and wire fraud, interstate transportation of property obtained by fraud and tax evasion charges. They each face maximum prison terms of more than 100 years and fines of up to $5.25 million when sentenced Oct. 22.
Two other defendants, Merlin Blaine Riley, 28, of Mission Viejo, and Gary James Kummer, 30, of Laguna Hills, were acquitted.
During the three-week trial, Assistant U.S. Atty. David Sklansky presented evidence showing that the defendants, working through the B.N. Goldberg & Associates and M.S. Sawyer & Co. telemarketing firms, defrauded customers by falsely promising that their money would be used to purchase precious metals or the rights to future delivery of the metals.
In fact, the money was used to pay "sales commissions, overhead, personal expenses and (for) paying back earlier investors," Sklansky said.
Prosecutors said the victims' individual losses ranged from $1,000 to $150,000.