LAS VEGAS -- A federal grand jury indicted three Las Vegas residents for allegedly defrauding almost 400 individuals of more than $5 million in connection with a grant-funding telemarketing scheme, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Thursday.
Gregory Villegas, also known as Ray Matsui and Ray Mathis, 34, Christine M. Gagnon, also known as Lisa Foster and Crystal Waters, 33, and Mickey Gines, 40, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, and 31 counts of wire fraud. They were arrested in Las Vegas Thursday morning and were scheduled to make initial appearances in court Thursday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley, Jr.
According to court records, Villegas owned Executive Solutions, Business Funding Services Enterprises, BFS Enterprises, Global Business Funding, The Grant People, USA Grant Team, USA Grants, National Financial Advisors, US Filing Services, USFS, Echoe, Worldwide Asset Management, Corporate Capital Team, Business Acumen and Kuff Ltd.
These companies were allegedly involved in the business of grant funding. Gagnon and Gines were officers in some of the companies and were also listed as employees in other grant-funding companies that they or Villegas owned or controlled.
Beginning in March 2008 and continuing through last May 2, Villegas, Gagnon, Gines and others allegedly engaged in a telemarketing scheme to defraud individuals of their money, including at least 10 victims over age 55. The defendants employed staff to place telemarketing calls and operate websites to solicit fees from small business owners who wished to obtain private and government grants.
The defendants and staff allegedly used high pressure sales tactics and made false statements to customers concerning their ability to deliver grants.
To avoid lawsuits and detection by law enforcement, the defendants allegedly operated their companies under multiple and evolving names and directed their staff to use aliases that they routinely changed in communications with customers. When the grants failed to materialize, the defendants and staff allegedly falsely represented to customers that they were only collecting money for other companies or that delays in funding were caused by circumstances beyond the defendants' control.
In some instances, the defendants allegedly agreed to provide partial refunds to customers and fraudulently required customers to sign release forms stating that the defendants had not engaged in any wrongdoing.
The indictment alleged that through this scheme, the defendants victimized roughly 390 individuals throughout the United States, 10 of whom were over age 55, and fraudulently obtained roughly $5.2 million.
If convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison on the conspiracy count, up to 10 consecutive years for telemarketing to at least 10 individuals over age 55, and up to 30 years on each wire fraud count. They also face potential fines of up to $250,000 per count.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Brown.