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Roundup of alleged cons and schemes

Tested Green settles federal allegations that it sold 'worthless' environmental certificates. Also, a bank official is found guilty of soliciting bribes and a man is accused of investment fraud.

January 17, 2011|By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.

Not easy being green — The Federal Trade Commission said it reached a settlement with Tested Green, a company that issued "green" environmental certifications to businesses for as much as $550. According to the FTC, from February 2009 to April 2010, the company sold certifications that were "worthless" because Tested Green never examined the businesses. The FTC said Tested Green also deceived customers by citing endorsements from the National Green Business Assn. and the National Assn. of Government Contractors, which are both owned by Tested Green owner Jeremy Ryan Claeys.

Bank official found guilty After a one-week federal trial in Riverside, former Chase Bank official Frank Mendoza of Victorville was found guilty of soliciting $25,000 in bribes from a Chase borrower. He promised to help a borrower handle a possible fraud investigation that Mendoza helped initiate, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Mendoza reported a suspected fraud to Chase, officials said, and several months later he asked the borrower for $25,000 in exchange for assistance. He faces a maximum penalty of 95 months in federal prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

Suspected investment fraud — Federal authorities have charged an Encinitas man and two other parties with fraudulently soliciting $14 million from 30 investors in an alleged phony scheme to trade commodities futures. From 2002 to 2010, Scott Bottolfson attracted investors with the promise of 20% returns without risk, the Federal Trade Commission said. Bottolfson is also accused of misappropriating $11 million of the $14 million he'd been given — largely for personal expenses and for paying other investors as apparent profits. He allegedly lost nearly one third of the $3 million he actually did invest.

Internet scheme — The Federal Trade Commission said it settled a lawsuit against a New York Internet business that quietly made unauthorized debit and credit charges on consumers accounts. The lawsuit alleged that Classic Closeouts and its chief executive, Daniel Greenberg, made charges of as much as $79 on consumers' cards, years after they had bought "low cost" clothing and household goods from the website. Under the settlement, Greenberg is banned from owning or controlling any Internet-based retail business that uses credit and debit cards. The settlement also imposes a $2.1-million judgment against him.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

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