A Chino Hills woman is among four defendants who will be sentenced in the next few months after being found guilty of conspiracy in connection with a telemarketing scheme, targeting businesses and charities.
Three other defendants in the case have already been sentenced, including Gilbert Michaels, 79, of West Los Angeles, who U.S. Attorney’s office prosecutors allege was the leader of a decades-long, multimillion-dollar telemarketing scheme that defrauded 50,000 victims of small businesses and charities by posing as their supplier of printer toner, but sold them toner at inflated prices.
Mr. Michaels was sentenced Sept. 3 to four years in prison and ordered to pay a $200,000 fine.
Tammi Williams, 46, of Chino Hills, was found guilty of conspiracy in December 2019 along with Leah Johnson, 57, of Ignacio, Colorado; Jonathan Brightman, 54, of Westlake Village; Sharon Scandaliato Virag, 56, of West Hills; James Milheiser, 54, of Huntington Beach; and Francis Scimeca, 56, of Woodland Hills, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Ciaran McEvoy.
Ms. Williams was the office manager of Elite Office Supply and was employed by Specialty Business Center, Rancho Office Supply and Select Imaging Supplies, the spokesman said.
“Mr. Michaels owned and operated IDC Servco and Mytel International, companies that, with the assistance of boiler room operators, fraudulently sold toner to businesses, charities and other organizations through the U.S.,” Mr. McEvoy said. “Mr. Michaels’ companies handled the billing and shipping of the toner and charged the boiler rooms at or above retail prices for the toner they were selling to victims.”
He provided price catalogs to use in making sales, listing the price of toner at five to 10 times higher than retail price, Mr. McEvoy said.
“Many of the victims already were receiving toner at no additional charge pursuant to their contracts for their copiers and printers,” he said.
Each telemarketer told victims that the toner price increased, and they had not been previously notified of the increase, telling the victims they had a chance to purchase toner at the previous price.
“Believing they were dealing with their regular supplier of toner, employees at the victim businesses and organizations signed order confirmation forms, allowing IDC Servico to ship toner to the victims and sent invoices to demand payment at the inflated price, Mr. McEvoy said.
Many times, IDC Servico employees threatened their victims with collections or legal actions if they did not pay, he said.
“In the cases where IDC Servico agreed to take the toner back, victims were often forced to pay significant restocking fees,” Mr. McEvoy said.
He said during one six-year span, victims sent more than $126 million to the scammers.