Two Canadians each face up to 10 years in federal prison after admitting their participation in a telemarketing scam authorities say raked in nearly $10.5 million from some 37,000 American consumers, Canadian Press reports.
Steven Winter, 38, and Sean McVicar, 34, both of Toronto, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Sentencing was set for Nov. 2.
The pleas came just days after two other Toronto men were sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms and ordered to repay nearly $5.6 million for their roles in a separate telemarketing scheme that affected 40,000 people, many of them with poor credit.
The U.S. government said that for several years dating to 1999, companies headed by Winter and employing McVicar used high-pressure tactics in duping consumers into paying fees of $149 to $400 for items such as supposed credit-card protection services.
The telemarketers insisted that credit-card companies required consumers to have such safeguards and said the consumer would be responsible for all charges from unauthorized or fraudulent use of their credit cards. But under federal regulations, a consumer actually cannot be held liable for more than $50 for any unauthorized charged to a credit card account.
Federal prosecutors said consumers also were told that unless they paid a roughly $200 "processing fee" in advance to the defendants for a credit card, the consumer's credit history would be "red flagged," hurting that person's ability to get another credit card.
Neither Visa nor MasterCard authorized Winter or McVicar to market credit cards on their behalf.
No customer-service representatives were made available to buyers of the supposed credit-card protection. Instead, consumer calls were routed to an answering machine.
A 2007 indictment naming Winter and McVicar portrays Winter as the mastermind who set up and controlled the telemarketing operations in Canada, the U.S. and Belize under various corporate names, including HTC Holdings -- an acronym for "Hide the Cash" -- and BBC Corp., which stood for "Billionaire Boys Club."
As part of the scam, according to the indictment, telemarketers made 925,000 to 1.85 million telemarketing calls to the United States.
Canadians David Dalglish, 53, and Leslie Anderson, 56, were sentenced earlier to roughly two decades in prison for their roles in a scam that targeted U.S. residents with blemished or no credit, promising them through unsolicited telephone calls a credit card for an advance fee of $189 to $219.
In that case, consumers who let the telemarketers electronically take the fees from their accounts got no credit cards in return -- generally just advertising-stuffed packages or stored-value cards requiring them to deposit money to use, prosecutors said.