EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (February 8, 2016) — James L. Porter, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced that this morning, United States District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel sentenced Elpenike Eddy-Aldava, 74, of Las Vegas, NV, to one year and one day in federal prison on her conviction for telemarketing fraud. On October 9, 2015, after a four day trial, a federal jury in East St. Louis found Eddy-Aldava guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. The fraud scheme that Eddy-Aldava participated in victimized individuals throughout the United States, including Southern Illinois.
Evidence at trial showed that for more than 5 years, Eddy-Aldava worked as a telemarketer for a telemarketing business in Las Vegas. Although the business frequently changed names, the two primary names of the business were Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max. Telemarketers from Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max called timeshare owners throughout the United States and offered to help them sell their timeshares. The telemarketers then falsely represented that they had found corporate buyers interested in acquiring blocks of timeshare units and that the victims’ timeshare units could be included in these blocks. In order to participate in this “corporate block,” however, the telemarketers told the victims that they had to pay upfront fees, which usually ranged from $2,000 to $3,000. The telemarketers falsely told the victims that these fees were needed to pay closing costs. Instead, the fees were used as revenues for Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max. In addition, the telemarketers were paid a large commission for each fraudulent sale. These commissions typically ranged from 40% to 50%.
Because Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max had no corporate buyers, no timeshares were ever sold to any corporations. Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max employed individuals known as “Updaters” to handle all of the calls from customers who called in to ask why their timeshares had not been sold as had been promised. The job of these Updaters was to provide false excuses to the victims in order to string them along and prevent them from contacting their credit card companies and demanding their money back.
The scheme operated from at least December 5, 2006 until January 24, 2012. The losses caused by the scheme exceeded $11,000,000.
“Unfortunately, these telemarketing scams take place far too often,” Acting U.S. Attorney Porter stated. “Hopefully, today’s sentence will send a message to other telemarketers that when they defraud citizens of Southern Illinois, they are going to be prosecuted and they will most likely go to prison. I’d also like to remind our citizens that when someone contacts them on the telephone with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
In May 2013, the owner of Vacation Max, Michael Patrick Sullivan, was indicted. Sullivan pled guilty and on January 9, 2015, was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Three other telemarketers from the scheme (John Nicosia, Robert Kelly Mathews, and Rebecca Marrs), as well as one of the Updaters (Patrick Nosack) were also charged. Nicosia, Mathews, and Nosack all pled guilty and were sentenced to prison. Rebecca Marrs’ trial is scheduled to begin on April 5, 2016.
As part of today’s sentence, the court also ordered Eddy-Aldava to pay $647,015 in restitution to the victims she defrauded. When she completes her prison sentence, Eddy-Aldava will serve a period of 2 years of supervised release.
The case against Eddy-Aldava is one of approximately 80 cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois relating to timeshare resale fraud and part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service.
The prosecution of this case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Verseman and Special Assistant United States Attorney Vanessa Lu.
PRESS RELEASE SOURCE: USDOJ Southern District of Illinois