NASCAR goods, identity theft, Medicare fraud: Your weekly ScamWatch
NASCAR merchandise –- A San Fernando Valley man pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges related to a long-running scheme in which he defrauded investors -– some of them friends and family members -– of more than $13 million, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release. Eliott Jay Dresher, 64, of Chatsworth told investors that he would use their money to buy NASCAR apparel and merchandise at a discount and then sell it to retailers for a profit. He promised investors returns of 20% to 25% every six months. But instead of making the payments through NASCAR-related profits, he used new investor deposits to pay returns to earlier investors, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. The charges to which Dresher pleaded guilty carry a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Law enforcement officials suggest that people be extra cautious when offered investments with extremely high returns or guaranteed profits.
Identity theft -– A Northern California man pleaded guilty to conspiracy and identity theft charges related to an identity theft ring that victimized 29 people, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said in a news release. Nick Luu, 30, of Vallejo will face a sentence of four years in state prison in a plea agreement with prosecutors, Harris said. During a six-month period in 2009, Luu and five other people stole personal information from a variety of sources, including records at a San Jose law office and a Santa Clara dental office where some of the conspirators worked. They used the stolen information to set up credit card accounts in the victims’ names and used the cards to steal nearly $200,000, prosecutors alleged. They used change-of-address forms at local post offices to have the credit cards and bills sent to post office boxes they opened as part of the scam. Law enforcement and consumer protection groups recommend checking your credit report at least once a year to make sure that no one has set up bogus accounts in your name.
Medicare –- Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have charged six people with defrauding the Medicare program of nearly $11 million through a series of false billings. In one of the cases, George Kakopian and Yervand Khachatryan were accused of operating a medical supply company that submitted more than $4 million in bills to Medicare for wheelchairs and orthotics that were not medically necessary or were never given to Medicare beneficiaries.
-- Stuart Pfeifer
Photo: A NASCAR event in Richmond, Va. Credit: Steve Helber / Associated Press