The man behind a million-dollar bogus charity scheme will serve three years in prison after pleading guilty in Oklahoma County District Court to multiple counts of fraud.
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Domingo Frias-Payan pleaded guilty to eleven counts of charity fraud and one count of securities fraud after he was accused of swindling more than $1 million through a bogus charity, Oklahoma City-based Save a Life Give a Phone Foundation, Inc.
Frias-Payan received a 12-year sentence, with three years imprisonment and nine years probation. A restitution hearing will be held at a later date.
According to the attorney general, Frias-Payan allegedly solicited cell phones on behalf of battered women's shelters, domestic violence victims, the elderly and disabled, but the majority of the donated phones were sold for personal profit.
Frias-Payan's wife was also charged for her role in scheme. Heather Frias-Payan pleaded guilty in May 2006 to eleven counts of violating the Oklahoma Solicitation of Charitable Contributions Act. She was ordered to serve a seven-year suspended sentence and pay $11,000 in fines.
"This so-called charity took in about 100,000 cell phones," Edmondson said. "Frias-Payan promised donors the phones would be distributed to vulnerable groups for emergency use. Our investigators could only find about 300 phones that were actually donated. The others were sold for about $1.2 million, and that money was not used for any charity."
The charity allegedly solicited phones from individuals, businesses, cell phone companies, cities and police departments in 41 different states.
The state alleged the couple also falsely represented that donations to Save a Life would be used to maintain a shelter in The Village for victims of domestic violence. The shelter was shut down because it was not licensed and operated in violation of municipal ordinances.
According to the attorney general, the couple allegedly required the women who stayed at the shelter to either pay $125 per month rent or work four hours a day in a boiler room soliciting more cell phones and donations.
A boiler room refers to a facility equipped for telemarketing solicitation calls.
The couple was originally charged in April 2005, but fled the United States soon after the charges were filed. The fugitives were tracked in and out of three countries before they were taken into custody in Canada in March 2006.
According to the state's complaint, the couple also did business as Domingo Group Telecom, Inc., Givafon, Inc., and Recycleable (sic) Cellular Network, Inc.