A Chino Hills woman is among seven people found guilty today in a $126 million telemarketing scheme dating back to the late 1980s, targeting thousands of charities and small businesses.
Tammy L. Williams, 44, of Chino Hills, was found guilty along with Gilbert Michaels, 77, of West Los Angeles; James R. Milheiser, 53, of Huntington Beach; Leah D. Johnson, 54, of Ignacio, Colorado; Jonathan M. Brightman, 52, of Westlake Village; Sharon Scandalito Virag, 54, of West Hills; and Francis S. Scimeca, 54, of Woodland Hills on one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, said U.S. Attorney Central District of California spokesman Ciaran McEvoy.
Sentencing is scheduled for Friday, May 29. Each defendant is facing a maximum 20 years in prison, the spokesman said.
“The jury heard evidence that members of the conspiracy, going as far back as 1988, bilked more than 50,000 victims by posing as their regular supplier of printer toner and selling them toner at great inflated prices,” Mr. McEvoy said. “Over one six-year span, victims were induced to send more than $126 million to the telemarketing scammers.”
Telemarketers told the businesses and charities that the price of their toner had increased and that they had not been notified of the increase, giving the victims a chance to purchase toner at the previous price, Mr. McEvoy said.
“Believing they were dealing with their regular supplier of toner, employees at the victim’s companies signed order confirmation forms, which prompted Mr. Michaels' company to ship toner to victims and send invoices that demanded payment at inflated prices,” he added.
Employees would then threaten victims with collections or legal action if the invoice was not paid.
If the supplier agreed to take back the toner, victims were forced to pay a restocking fee, Mr. McEvoy said.
Ms. Williams worked as an office manager at Elite Office Supply and worked for Specialty Business Center, Rancho Office Supply and Select Imaging Supply, the spokesman said.
Fourteen additional defendants have previous pleaded guilty in the case that was been investigated by the Huntington Beach Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the Orange County District Attorney.