About two dozen individuals accused of falsely guaranteeing jobs and business opportunities to consumers were ordered over the last year to pay $221 million in restitution to their victims, Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division said Wednesday.
State and federal authorities brought several dozen law-enforcement actions since March 2010 involving alleged scams that promised work-from-home careers, West and other government officials announced at the Federal Trade Commission. They secured sentences, convictions or guilty pleas for 26 defendants, West said.
“In these difficult times, it is fraudsters who find their window of opportunity in the vulnerability that exists for so many Americans,” West said. “These folks often become victims to fraudsters who prey on them.”
In one case, Stephen Duffie and Andrew Steinberg were convicted last year on charges stemming from a fraudulent business opportunity, Fidelity ATM. Duffie was sentenced to four years in prison and two years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay almost $2.2 million in restitution to victims. Steinberg was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison and ordered to pay almost $2.3 million in restitution to victims.
The company received about $4.2 million from the more than 100 individuals they scammed, according to the DOJ. Fidelity ATM promised victims they would earn profits from ATMs located in high-traffic areas if they gave the company $29,995 or more, the DOJ said.
West said consumers must be vigilant about business opportunities that seem too good to be true. He said it is often “very difficult for them to get all their money back.”