EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (October 15, 2015) — Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced that late Friday afternoon, a federal jury in East St. Louis found Elpenike Eddy-Aldava, 75, of Las Vegas, NV, guilty of telemarketing 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.
“These telemarketing scams are truly reprehensible,” United States Attorney Wigginton stated. “These scam artists reach their tentacles into people’s homes and steal money by lying to those in need. When scammers reach out and steal from the citizens of Southern Illinois, we are going to aggressively prosecute them.”
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 Mars), as well as one of the Updaters (Patrick Nosack) were also charged. Both Nicosia and Mathews pled guilty and were sentenced to prison. Nosack also pled guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 19, 2015. Rebecca Marrs’ trial is scheduled to begin on January 26, 2016.
The sentencing hearing for Eddy-Aldava is scheduled for February 4, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. Eddy-Aldava is subject to a term of imprisonment of up to 25 years, a fine of $250,000 and five years of supervised release. In addition, Eddy-Aldava can be ordered to pay restitution to the victims of her crime.
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 is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Verseman and Special Assistant United States Attorney Vanessa Lu.
PRESS RELEASE SOURCE: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois