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2 Sentenced for Roles in Phone Scam

April 15, 1992|CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Two former officials of a Costa Mesa company were sentenced Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court for their role in schemes that bilked more than 1,000 consumers with a phony credit card offer, authorities said.

Unlike other fraudulent telephone solicitations, the credit card scam involved asking consumers to send a relatively small amount--$198 for a one-time processing fee--instead of the thousands of dollars that hustlers of precious metals or other phony investments demand.

The credit card pitch was just credible enough that 1,200 consumers nationwide responded, netting the company about $200,000, according to police and prosecutors.

"There was just enough in this scam that anybody could fall for it," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan McInerney, who prosecuted the case.

The telephone solicitors worked for Americorp Unlimited, a Nevada corporation with telephone solicitation offices on Baker Street in Costa Mesa and a post office box in Fountain Valley. The company operated from July, 1991, through January, 1992, before voluntarily shutting down. Costa Mesa police arrested the two former company officials a month later and are still seeking another.

Judge John J. Ryan sentenced former Americorp Unlimited Vice President Peter John Kasparoff, 25, of Huntington Beach to 16 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty to grand theft, criminal conspiracy and telemarketing fraud.

Ex-office manager Christopher J. Tooley, 27, of Newport Beach received 60 days in Orange County Jail for trying to start the same scam at his own company in Tustin after Americorp Unlimited folded, Costa Mesa Detective Steve Labbitt said.

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of former Americorp Unlimited President Hubert Allen Jeffreys, 24, of Dana Point, who still is at large. He has been charged with grand theft, conspiracy and telemarketing fraud.

With several employees working from a "boiler room," Americorp Unlimited would call consumers out of state saying they were known for having good credit, then make them an appealing offer for Visa or MasterCard credit cards, Labbitt said. The company, in fact, had no agreement to offer the credit cards.

Solicitors told consumers that they could receive either card for a $198 onetime charge, with no annual fee, a $5,000 credit limit and a 10.8% annual interest rate.

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