LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Canadian man was sentenced today to more than 11 years in federal prison for orchestrating a telemarketing scheme that conned tens of thousands of primarily elderly victims -- including many in Southern California -- out of more than $18 million.
Mark Eldon Wilson, 57, of Vancouver, British Columbia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero to 135 months behind bars, noting that the victims suffered both financial and emotional harm from the fraud.
Following a five-day trial in March, a Los Angeles federal jury convicted Wilson of seven counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud for running the cross-border telemarketing scheme that targeted American victims.
Evidence showed that Wilson operated the scheme through firms that victims believed were affiliated with their own credit card companies. As part of the sales pitch, telemarketers falsely suggested to victims that they were vulnerable to credit card fraud and would be held liable for fraudulent charges on their cards.
Victims were sold a non-existent credit card “protection” service for $300 that purportedly would be in effect for 10 years, and were falsely promised a 100 percent money-back guarantee. In many instances, even when the victims did not authorize payment for the purported services, Wilson's companies charged their credit cards for the full amount of the service fee, even though victims were told the fee was as little as $3 per month.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said that between 1998 and 2001, Wilson and his telemarketers collected over $18 million from more than 60,000 individuals in 37 states, including a number of victims in Southern California.
Wilson used the fraud proceeds to fund his businesses and his own lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of luxury boats, a fleet of cars used by himself and various employees of his businesses, setting up an offshore bank account in the South Pacific to house a portion of his fraud proceeds, and traveling periodically to Las Vegas to gamble and meet with other telemarketers at luxury hotels, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.