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Telemarketer Convicted of Defrauding the Elderly

July 17, 1999|From a Times Staff Writer

A Long Beach man was convicted Friday of running a telemarketing prize scam that bilked and threatened elderly people across the country.

Working out of his apartment, Charles Lowell Kentz, 33, telephoned his victims, telling them that they had won substantial monetary prizes and that his business was authorized to collect the taxes they owed on their winnings.

During a four-day trial in Los Angeles federal court, witnesses testified that Kentz threatened them with lawsuits, arrest or loss of their Social Security benefits if they refused to pay him the taxes on the bogus prizes.

Two victims testified that Kentz said police with German shepherd dogs would search and seize their homes if they didn't pay. One victim testified that she sent his company, Associated Publishers, close to $20,000 because of his threats. Another said she had a stroke after getting a harassing call from him.

Kentz received nearly $600,000 through the scam from 1996 to this year, said Assistant U.S. Attys. Manuel A. Abascal and Krystal N. Denley, who prosecuted the case. They said he spent most of the money on cars, jewelry and other luxuries.

Kentz was arrested in December and released on bond. Soon after his release, he telephoned one of his prior victims, a 90-year-old South Dakota woman, and demanded more money, prosecutors said.

He was arrested again and has since been held without bond.

Kentz will be sentenced Oct. 4 on 21 felony counts of mail fraud. Prosecutors said they will ask U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins to impose a heavy sentence because of Kentz's threats against his victims.

Robert Vaughn Walters, 60, of San Juan Capistrano, a co-defendant, previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges and is to be sentenced Sept. 27.

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