Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Miami County Prosecutor Gary Nasal have announced that Theodore Thomas, the accused ringleader of a telemarketing fraud ring from Ohio and Florida that stole millions of dollars from thousands of victims in 41 states since 2007, has pleaded guilty.
Thomas, previously of Huber Heights, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 11 years.
"Today's guilty plea by Theodore Thomas is a victory for all Ohioans and vindication for the thousands of people from across the country who fell victim to this criminal enterprise," DeWine said. "Although he was part of a complex, multi-state scheme that defrauded people in 41 states out of over $2.8 million, in the end, Theodore Thomas was nothing more than a common criminal who lied, cheated, and stole. Now he has to pay the price."
"This case was a massive undertaking, but Attorney General DeWine's commitment was unflinching," Nasal said. "By working together, we were able to put this gang of scammers out of business and behind bars, which is right where they belong."
In June 2012, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, in cooperation with Miami County Prosecutor Gary Nasal, indicted 18 individuals for crimes that arose out of the operation of United Property Sales, World Wide Land Marketing, and Nationwide Advertising and Marketing. To date, 15 of the 18 defendants have pleaded guilty. Trials are pending for the remaining three defendants, with the first trial being set to begin June 18, 2013.
Victims were allegedly told that the suspects would sell their land to waiting buyers at lavish dinner shows in Las Vegas, Reno, and St. Louis. Other victims were told that investors in a solar energy plant had already agreed to purchase their land for the inflated value and they were required to prepay the closing costs fee in order to finalize the sale. The indictment alleges that there were actually never any buyers, closings, or sales done in the lifetime of the company.
The suspects went to great lengths to make their scheme appear legitimate. Videos on their website purportedly show the suspects talking to a crowd in a video filmed at one of their Las Vegas dinner shows. The indictment alleges that the video was actually filmed at the Brukner Nature Center in Troy, Ohio, in an empty banquet room.
The enterprise was founded in Ohio in 2007 and operated from many locations including Troy, Huber Heights, and Vandalia. Later, the operation opened new branches in the Tampa, Fla., area.
"The Attorney General's Office is committed to supporting Ohio's county prosecutors and law enforcement agencies through whatever means necessary. Our Economic Crimes Unit and BCI worked with the Miami County Prosecutor's Office and law enforcement in the state of Florida, Miami County, Clark County, and Huber Heights to find the evidence, put it together, and get these scammers convicted," added Attorney General DeWine. "We were able to bring justice to thousands of people and I have to tell you, as a former prosecutor myself, that feels good."