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Man Gets 3 Years in Phone Scam

O.C. BUSINESS PLUS

Courts: He admits starting scheme just after guilty plea to earlier charges. Memphis man lost more than $43,000.

November 03, 1999|ROBIN FIELDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County man was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison Tuesday for operating a telemarketing scheme that wiped out the life savings of at least one elderly man.

Michael Gene King, 37, pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter gave King extra jail time because he admitted starting the scam just after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a virtually identical telemarketing operation, prosecutors said.

King had been released on bond for four months after the earlier conviction, which carried a 14-month sentence. He was arrested on the second set of charges in March at a halfway house, the day after completing the prison term for the first set.

"He began this right after he purportedly apologized for the first one and expressed remorse," Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders said.

Prosecutors say King and his wife, Kim Marie King, 35, who is serving a two-year prison term after pleading guilty for her part in the scheme, phoned seniors and told them they had won large sweepstakes prizes. The catch: They would need to pay thousands of dollars upfront to cover taxes and fees.

An 86-year-old Memphis man sent the Kings a check for more than $43,000 after being promised he had won $260,000, prosecutors said. The prize never materialized. Savings depleted, the man told authorities he was forced to mortgage his home.

Prosecutors say the Kings also perpetrated a so-called "reload" scheme, targeting seniors taken in by earlier scams.

In those calls, the couple allegedly represented themselves as members of a Walt Disney Co. charity that gave refunds for money lost in telemarketing schemes. No such charity existed. Instead, seniors were duped a second time, prosecutors said.

Along with his 41-month prison term, the judge also ordered King to pay $44,570.64 in restitution.

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