A telemarketer accused of creating more than 200 bogus charities with names resembling those of major legitimate charities was convicted Tuesday of federal fraud charges.
Kent Stryker collected more than $400,000 from hundreds of unsuspecting donors across the country in 1997 and 1998, according to prosecutors.
Operating out of his Glendale apartment, Stryker listed his charities with the toll-free telephone information directory.
According to prosecutors, when a caller would request a number for "the cancer society," for example, that person would sometimes be referred to one of Stryker's organizations with a distinctly similar name.
The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Assn. and the Arthritis Foundation sued Stryker for trademark infringement and unfair competition in 1998. The case ended in a settlement.
Stryker, who testified in his own defense in the federal criminal trial, insisted he had not been trying to mislead, misrepresent or deceive callers. He said he set up the charities to expand public awareness about alternative medicine. Some of the money, he said, was used to distribute brochures about the benefits of using magnets to treat illnesses.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Ellyn Lindsay and Assistant U.S. Atty. James Aquilina said that virtually none of the money collected by Stryker and his sales team went for anything charitable.
They also accused Stryker of falsely suggesting to callers that his charities had tax-exempt status and of writing the name of his charity over the names of legitimate charities on checks that arrived in the mail.
Stryker blamed any illegal conduct on the telemarketers who worked for him.
After deliberating more than a week, the Los Angeles federal court jury found Stryker guilty on 12 counts of mail fraud. His onetime associate, Patrick Kretschmer, was convicted of 10 fraud counts.