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4 Gecko Telemarketers Convicted

Courts: Workers of the Costa Mesa company were found guilty in $5-million mail and wire fraud.

May 10, 2000|GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four telemarketing salespeople were convicted Tuesday by a federal jury in Santa Ana for their roles in a scheme that defrauded more than 500 investors across the country of almost $5 million.

The jury convicted Stephen James Stapleton of Dana Point, Jon William Long of Long Beach and San Diego, Nancy Ann Klatter of Costa Mesa and Robert Edwin Perkins Jr. of Newport Beach of 17 counts each of mail and wire fraud. Long was convicted of an additional count of mail fraud.

The four were employees of a Costa Mesa company, Gecko Holdings, that was falsely promoted as an online gaming business about to go public. Prosecutors said investors were promised that their shares, priced at $2, would double or triple in value in a few months. But the company never went public.

During a 3 1/2-week trial, attorneys for the defendants contended that their clients were not aware of the criminal activity of their boss, Gecko owner Robert Syrax.

But prosecutors said the four were willingly involved in an investment scam.

Last November, Syrax pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud and interstate transportation of fraudulently obtained property. He was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and ordered to repay those he defrauded. He had taken $2.5 million and fled with his wife to Las Vegas then to Florida before being apprehended. His wife, Sandra Diane Coronado, was sentenced to eight months after pleading guilty to transporting fraudulently obtained property across state lines, according to Ellyn Lindsay, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.

The four salespeople are to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary L. Taylor on separate dates in August. They face up to 10 years in federal prison for each count.

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