LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The FBI raided a home in Northwest Las Vegas Thursday, taking a man and woman out in handcuffs, according to neighbors and documents reviewed by the 8 News Now Investigators.
Later Thursday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York confirmed two men were arrested in Nevada and Wisconsin on charges that they carried out separate telemarketing scams that cheated people across the country of tens of millions of dollars.
Criminal charges in Manhattan federal court were lodged against Richard Zeitlin, 53, of Las Vegas, and Robert Piaro, 73, of Fredonia, Wisconsin.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said the men lied to donors by falsely letting them believe most of their donations were going to help veterans, aid law enforcement officers and fight breast cancer.
“Instead, Zeitlin and Piaro allegedly exploited these important causes and the good intentions of everyday citizens to steal millions of dollars in small donations,” Williams said in a news release.
According to an indictment in New York, Zeitlin’s businesses pocketed 90% of the funds that were donated from 2017 to 2020 as a result of telemarketing campaigns.
The indictment said that Zeitlin “Call Centers” for decades had raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charities and political action committees by making hundreds of thousands of calls to donors and potential donors.
Although the majority of fundraising campaigns focused on charities, Zeitlin began encouraging prospective clients to operate PACs rather than charities in 2017 to dodge regulations that pertain to charities but not PACs, the indictment said.
Beginning at least in 2017, Zeitlin began using the centers to defraud individuals by falsely describing how their money would be spent and the nature of the organizations that would receive money, it said.
Authorities said Zeitlin directed employees to mislead donors into thinking they were donating money to charities rather than PACs and that their money would go toward an organization rather than the telemarketers.
The release from the U.S. Attorney’s office indicates that Zeitlin “instructed employees to destroy records to cover up his crimes.”
The door at the gate of Zeitlin’s multi-million dollar home near Centennial was busted open and someone on the property – located on W. La Madre Way in Clark County – refused to answer questions from the 8 News Now Investigators. Instead, that person tried to push close an electric sliding door that was off its tracks.
Neighbors described “flash bangs,” and heard authorities demanding the occupants of the home come outside at around 6:00 a.m.
“I heard what I thought was a dumpster being dropped off in the street,” a neighbor who lives five doors away from Zeitlin, Steve Boden, said. Boden said the neighborhood – which includes a gated community – is generally very quiet.
“Everybody pretty well knows everybody and is very polite to everybody,” Boden said, calling Thursday’s events “exciting in a way and disturbing in a way.”
Over a five-year period from 2017 to December 2022, Piaro made false statements and misrepresentations to donors to raise over $28 million for PACs he owned including Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer, the Association for Emergency Responders & Firefighters, the US Veterans Assistance Foundation and Standing by Veterans, an indictment said.
The indictment said Piaro directed a fundraising effort that misrepresented to donors that donations would be used to advance specific legislation, educate lawmakers and conduct and fund research.
Zeitlin was charged with two conspiracy counts, wire fraud and obstruction of justice charges, which carry a potential penalty of up to 100 years in prison.
Piaro was charged with wire and mail fraud, charges which carry a potential penalty of up to 60 years in prison.
Records in Clark County’s Eighth Judicial District Court show someone with the name of Richard Zeitlin as a party in four civil cases filed in 2023. One of those is a divorce action.
Lawyers for Zeitlin and Piaro did not respond to requests for comment.
The Associate Press contributed to this report.