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Brea Telemarketers Indicted on Fraud Charges

Crime: Operators allegedly charged victims for recovery of funds from previous fraud schemes.

November 06, 1996|JAMES S. GRANELLI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOS ANGELES — Six former operators and telephone salesmen of a Brea telemarketing firm that allegedly preyed on victims of previous boiler-room frauds were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of mail and wire fraud.

The six, working out of Nortay Consultants, told fraud victims they would recover some or all of the lost money in exchange for retainer fees that ranged from $100 to more than $8,000, according to court documents.

Instead, they collected about $491,000 from 1,100 victims over a two-year period that ended in April 1995 and never investigated any of the prior frauds, the documents state. They did, however, return about $11,000 to some victims.

Five of the Nortay defendants were among a dozen people arrested two weeks ago in a major federal crackdown on telemarketing frauds aimed at the elderly. Authorities, under an operation called Senior Sentinel, also closed down five companies in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

The former Nortay operators indicted Monday were Norman Hefferan, 59, of La Canada Flintridge; Lori Blitz, 43, of Santa Ana; and, Harold Larsen, 43, of Huntington Beach. Also indicted were former salesmen Jerry Pierre Ste. Marie, 40, of Long Beach; Dennis Choquette, 38, of Anaheim; and, Jacob Giffin, 26, of Cypress.

Ste. Marie remains a fugitive. Hefferan is being detained without bail because his arrest came while he was on parole for a previous telemarketing conviction. The others are free on bail.

All six were indicted on 10 counts of mail fraud and eight counts of wire fraud. In addition, Hefferan was indicted on four counts of aiding and abetting a fraud, and Blitz was indicted in aiding and abetting. Larsen's court-appointed lawyer, Terry Amdur of Pasadena, said Monday that his client will plead not guilty at his arraignment Nov. 18, when the others also will be arraigned.

Amdur said that Larsen, who cooperated with the FBI, left Nortay in late 1993 and had the other owners sign an agreement indemnifying him from any harm later.

Court-appointed lawyers for the other defendants couldn't be reached for comment. Hefferan's attorney, Robert K. Steinberg of Los Angeles, previously said his client "insists" he did nothing wrong and left the company after a year.

Prosecutors called the Nortay operation one of the most "egregious" cases because it victimized previous victims.

Instead of investigating prior frauds, for instance, Hefferan and others would laugh at their victims after concluding telephone sales, calling them "stupid," "fools" and "idiots" for sending more money to them.

A seventh Nortay salesman, Chris Hall of Norwalk, is being sought on an arrest warrant, but wasn't indicted Monday.

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