A federal jury has found seven people – including three from the Valley region – guilty of conspiracy and mail fraud for participating in a decades-long, $126 million telemarketing scheme targeting thousands of small businesses, agencies and charities.
In the scam, which dates to 1988, telemarketers typically posed as the regular suppliers for the victim companies and told the companies that the price of toner had increased but the customer could still purchase toner at the previous, lower price. Believing that they were dealing with their regular supplier, employees at the victim companies signed order confirmation forms, but the conspiracy would ship toner to victims and send invoices that demanded payment at inflated prices. When the victim companies realized they had been scammed, they called to complain and were informed that they could not cancel the order or refund money because they had signed order confirmation forms.
Gilbert N. Michaels, 77, of West Los Angeles, was identified as the ringleader orchestrating the scheme. Michaels owned and operated IDC Servco, a Culver City-based business that sold toner. Three of the seven defendants found guilty today were identified as locals: Jonathan Brightman, 52, of Westlake Village, who owned Copy Com Distribution Inc., Independent Cartridge Supplier and Corporate Products; Sharon Scandaliato Virag, 54, of West Hills, who owned XL Supply Inc.; and Francis Scimeca, 54, of Woodland Hills, the owner of Supply Central Distribution Inc. and Priority Office Supply.
Fourteen other defendants charged in this case previously pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges.
U.S. District Judge James Selna in Los Angeles has scheduled a May 29 sentencing hearing, at which time the convicted seven defendants will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.