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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | East County / Simi Valley

Telemarketer Pleads Guilty to Fraud

October 20, 2000|PAUL M. ANDERSON

A Simi Valley businessman and his partner are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 14 after pleading guilty this week to charges related to telemarketing fraud.

Stanton Alan "Buddy" Sklar, 56, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony count of unlawful telemarketing, officials said.

Co-defendant Chris M. Pinnick, 48, who at one time played lead guitar for the rock band Chicago, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud, prosecutor Mitch Disney said.

Sklar and Pinnick are longtime friends and play in a rock band, said Disney and Pinnick's public defender, Bill Rutan.

Sklar hired mostly high school students to call companies using credit card machines, Disney said.

Following a script, the telemarketers would tell the company representatives of delays in providing replacement supplies for the credit card machines, Disney said. Sklar's representatives would then offer a two-week supply of ribbon, receipts and paper, often at more than 10 times the retail price.

Pinnick worked in the collections department for about $8 to $10 an hour, Rutan said.

The callers mostly targeted businesses outside California to avoid prosecution, Disney said.

When investigators raided Sklar's offices on Tapo Canyon Road in April, they found hundreds of complaints in their files from companies alleging fraud, Disney said.

Sklar and Pinnick were arrested in August.

Sklar faces a three-year prison sentence, but Disney said he will recommend 90 days in jail and a $125,000 fine. Another $125,000 fine, as part of the plea agreement, would be levied against Sklar's company, of which he is the lone shareholder, Disney said.

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