The 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 been sentenced to six years in prison. He also agreed to testify against the remaining defendants.
Theodore Thomas, previously of Huber Heights, pleaded guilty on March 1, 2013 to a first-degree felony for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities.
"Our goal is to make sure that individuals who lie, cheat, and steal face harsh criminal penalties," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. "Theodore Thomas led an operation that stole millions of dollars from mostly elderly victims across the country, and now he will pay the price. This sentence shows that consumer fraud is a crime that will be punished."
In June 2012, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, in cooperation with Miami County Prosecutor Anthony Kendall, 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 in the case owned inexpensive, vacant land throughout the United States. Members of the telemarketing ring targeted the elderly victims and claimed they could sell their land. They told victims their land was worth up to 15 times its assessed value and that they had eager buyers who wanted to purchase the land.
Property owners were told to pay fees as high as $16,000 to guarantee the sale of the land for the inflated value. Other victims were told that a solar energy plant had agreed to purchase their land for the overstated price and that they were required to prepay closing costs in order to finalize the sale. Ultimately, there were never any buyers, closings, or sales. In all, the enterprise defrauded people in 41 states out of more than $2.8 million.
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 Consumer Protection Section's Economic Crimes Unit discovered the scheme and worked with BCI, the Miami County Prosecutor's Office, and law enforcement in Miami County, Clark County, Huber Heights, and the state of Florida.
DeWine created the Economic Crimes Unit in March 2011 to identify criminal conduct in consumer fraud cases and to assist Ohio's prosecuting attorneys in holding scammers criminally accountable. To date, 65 people have been charged with felonies and 35 have been convicted as a result of the unit's investigations.