Your Weekly ScamWatch
Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for:
Discount appliances –- Two people who advertised discount high-end appliances on the Internet but failed to ship them after receiving payment have been convicted of fraud and money-laundering charges. Darin Jerome French and Jennifer Lynn French were accused of stealing $1.5 million from customers of their business, Look What We Got, in 2003 and 2004. The pair advertised kitchen appliances made by Sub-Zero, Viking and Wolf on EBay at greatly discounted prices but did not ship the products. They are scheduled to be sentenced May 23 at the federal courthouse in Reno.
Global warming –- The Securities and Exchange Commission has sued seven people who allegedly promoted the stock of a sham company that they said would sell products to fight global warming but provided no such services. The seven defendants allegedly made more than $7 million in profits when shares of C02 Tech increased in 2007. The lawsuit accused the defendants of falsely claiming that they had relationships with business partners, including Boeing Co. The lawsuit accused the defendants of operating a “pump-and-dump” scheme in which false news is released to raise a stock's price so they can sell it at a profit.
Wheelchair scheme –- The officer manager of a Los Angeles medical supply business has pleaded guilty to conspiring with her former church pastor to defraud Medicare of more than $6 million by falsely billing the government for high-end wheelchairs that patients did not want. Darawn Shadene Vasquez, 26, pleaded guilty Feb. 18 to conspiring with her former pastor, Christopher Iruke, to commit fraud. She is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 3. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mortgage fraud –- Four people who fraudulently induced banks into making $55 million in residential loans by submitting false statements about borrowers’ income and employment have been sentenced to prison terms. Ivan Gil, Laneka Chatton, Jonathan J. Garcia and Maria Echeverria were sentenced Feb. 18 at the federal courthouse in San Diego to between 12 and 18 months in prison for their part in the scheme.
-- Stuart Pfeifer