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Jury Finds 2 Telemarketers Guilty of Cheating Seniors

October 07, 2000|From a Times Staff Writer

A federal jury in Santa Ana found two Orange County telemarketers and a cohort in Corona guilty of fraud and money-laundering in schemes that defrauded 2,200 mostly elderly victims nationwide of more than $1.2 million.

The jury late Thursday convicted Robert Flarida, 32, of Anaheim Hills and Doreen Woods, 34, of Costa Mesa on fraud and money-laundering charges involving two schemes. Jurors found Jason Garcia, 26, of Corona guilty of mail and wire fraud in one of the illegal operations.

All three participated in a sham magazine business known as Magtopia Inc., based first in Garden Grove and later in Santa Ana. For nearly two years until May 1997, the defendants induced about 1,900 elderly victims to pay $1.1 million to receive purported "valuable" prizes and awards.

Federal authorities said Magtopia offered such items as a big-screen television, a $1,000 diamond watch, an automobile or thousands of dollars in cash to those who sent in $250 to $900 in so-called processing fees. Many of the victims received nothing; some received inexpensive watches or magazine subscriptions with a value far less than the money sent in.

Flarida and Woods also were convicted in a similar scheme operated from July 1997 to February 1998 through North Star Publications in La Habra. They persuaded 356 elderly victims to pay $135,000 for prizes and awards.

Flarida and Woods were convicted of 24 counts each of mail and wire fraud; Garcia on 16 counts. In addition, the jury found Flarida guilty of 11 counts of money-laundering and Woods on eight counts.

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Taylor ordered Flarida and Woods held in custody pending their sentencing Jan. 22. Flarida could be sent to prison for up to 350 years and Woods for a maximum of 290 years.

Garcia was released on bail. He could get up to 90 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 29.

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