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60 charged in massive elder magazine fraud scam

The charges filed against the defendants include conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and violating the Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams Act of 1994.
Credit: KARE

MINNEAPOLIS — Calling it the "largest elder fraud scheme in the nation," U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald on Wednesday announced three separate indictments charging 60 defendants for their roles in a telemarketing scheme worth an estimated $300 million. 

The charges filed against the defendants include conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams Act of 1994 (the SCAMS Act).

"More than 150,000 elderly and vulnerable victims across the United States have been identified in what is essentially a criminal class action,” said MacDonald. “Unfortunately, we live in a world where fraudsters are willing to take advantage of seniors, who are often trusting and polite."

Court documents filed over the past 20 years say the defendants devised and carried out a telemarketing scheme to defraud victim-consumers across the U.S., many of whom are elderly and vulnerable. The scheme was carried out by a network of fraudulent magazine sales companies located across the United States and in Canada. 

Prosecutors say those companies operated telemarketing call centers from which their employees made calls using deceptive sales scripts designed to defraud victim-consumers by inducing them, through lies and misrepresentations, into making large or repeat payments for magazine subscriptions.

Investigators say many of the defendants used a fraudulent “renewal” script in which callers falsely claimed to be from the victim-consumer’s existing magazine subscription company, and were calling with an offer to reduce the monthly cost of an existing subscription. In reality, the company had no existing relationship with the victim, and was actually fraudulently signing them up for expensive and entirely new magazine subscriptions.

The end result, say prosecutors, was that victims went from having one magazine subscription to, in some cases, more than a dozen, all with different fraudulent magazine companies.

“The thieving greed of fraudsters who target senior citizens knows no bounds,” said FBI Minneapolis Special Agent in Charge Michael Paul. “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."

Among those charged in the indictments are a list of Minnesota residents. 

  • DAVID JOHN MOULDER, 57, of Prior Lake, Minnesota, owner and Chief Executive Officer of several Minnesota-based companies that provided an array of services to companies involved in fraudulent magazine sales, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • BARBARA ANN MOULDER, 55, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • BRIAN JAMES WILLIAMS, 41, of Long Lake, Minnesota, owner and operator of several Minnesota-based companies involved in fraudulent magazine sales, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • TASHENA LAVERA CRUMP, 36, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a call center manager and telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • JARED THOMAS MICHELIZZI, 37, of Ramsey, Minnesota, owner and operator of several Minnesota-based companies involved in fraudulent magazine sales, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • ERIC PATRICK MCGARRITY, 36, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • ANDREW JOHN LANDSEM, 34, Minneapolis, Minnesota, a telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • BALLAM HAZEAKIAH DUDLEY, 34, of Plymouth, Minnesota, a telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • MONICA SABINA SHARMA-HANSSEN, 52, of Excelsior, Minnesota, owner and operator of a Minnesota-based company involved in fraudulent magazine sales, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • TIMOTHY PAUL HANSSEN, 54, of Excelsior, Minnesota, owner and operator of a Minnesota-based company involved in fraudulent magazine sales, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • CORLOS KENTRELL SMITH, 41, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • STACEY LEIGH PERSONS, 34, of Andover, Minnesota, owned and operated two Minnesota-based companies involved in fraudulent magazine sales, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • PATRICIA NICHOLE SHINN, 33, of Cambridge, Minnesota, a telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • LEEANN GARCIA, 26, of Cambridge, Minnesota, a telemarketer, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.
  • ERIC STEPHEN ESHERICK, 37, of Andover, Minnesota, owner and operator of a Minnesota-based company involved in fraudulent magazine sales, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the SCAMS Act.

U.S. Attorney MacDonald thanks the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service for collaborating to bring the three indictments forward. Based on evidence obtained in this investigation, authorities believe there may be additional victims of the alleged conduct. They ask anyone who thinks they may be a victim to contact authorities by email, or by visiting the FBI website.