The indictments and other court documents say that over the last 20 years, the defendants used a network of dozens of fraudulent magazine sales companies and telemarketing call centers to carry out the scam. Employees allegedly used deceptive sales scripts to trick people into making large or repeat payments to the companies.
The indictments allege that many of the defendants used a fraudulent “renewal” script in which the telemarketers falsely claimed to be calling from the victim’s existing magazine subscription company with a phony offer to reduce monthly subscription costs.
In reality, the callers had no existing relationship with victims and signed them up for expensive, new magazine subscriptions. As a result, consumers ended up having multiple subscriptions with fraudulent magazine companies.
“Using a tactic like telemarketing magazine sales, these deceitful scam artists bilk hard earned money from their aging victims – leaving so many financially devastated in their retirement years and without recourse for recovery,” Michael Paul, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Minneapolis, said.
Some of the defendants are also accused of using a “cancellation” script that targeted people who had been previous victims. According to the indictments, these defendants took advantage of victims’ desperation to make the subscriptions stop and offered to consolidate and cancel existing subscriptions and pay off an alleged “outstanding balance” in exchange for a large lump sum payment. In reality, victims owed no money.
The indictments charge defendants at all levels of the alleged conspiracies, including people who allegedly led the scheme, company owners, call center managers, telemarketers and others. Those who led the scheme provided the companies software programs that tracked orders, sales, and other customer information.
The U.S. attorney’s office says the fraudulent companies were operating in Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, California, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Arkansas.
Watch MacDonald’s press conference in the video player below:
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