21 January 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – A Florida man has been sentenced to 84 months in federal prison for running a scam
in which he fraudulently promised to collect delinquent accounts receivable for
businesses across the country.
Ronald S. Stern, 57, of Sunrise, Florida, was sentenced Tuesday afternoon by United
States District Judge Gary A. Feess in Los Angeles. In addition to the prison term,
Judge Feess ordered Stern to pay nearly $1.9 million, which is full restitution to
the 11 businesses and 18 individuals who lost money because of his scheme.
Stern operated a Fort Lauderdale-based collection agency under the names Whitman
Credit Consultants, Inc; Whitman Credit Services; and Commercial Consultants
International, Inc. Through his company, Stern promised prospective clients that he
would collect their delinquent accounts receivable for a fee. Stern solicited
clients by saying he would keep only a small percentage of the delinquent account.
However, when Stern collected the delinquent monies, he kept the funds for himself.
Stern also charged clients for fictitious collection efforts, including the filing
of lawsuits which he never brought. Stern fraudulently obtained additional money
from the victim companies’ bank accounts by misappropriating identifying
information and using fraudulent authorizations to obtain loans and transfers from
those bank accounts.
Although Stern operated out of southern Florida, his victims were spread across the
nation. Victim companies in California were based in Compton, Cerritos, and San
Jose. In addition to the California victims, Stern’s corporate victims included
manufacturers, distributors, retailers, banks, casinos and employment agencies
located in Florida, Alabama, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio and the Bahamas.
Additionally, dozens of businesses that owed money and paid money to Stern never
received credit for their payments because Stern simply pocketed the money.
Stern also lured individuals to work for his company by falsely promising to pay
them lavish salaries and provide generous benefits. These individuals often left
other employment to take the job with Stern, only to discover that he had no
intention of paying them the amounts he had offered.
Stern was originally arrested at a friend’s house in Boyton Beach, Florida, on
November 6, 2003. After being released on bond several days later, he began
committing the same crimes again. He was rearrested April 6, 2004, and has been in
custody since then.
Stern pleaded guilty on July 19, 2004 to eight charges, including mail fraud, wire
fraud and money-laundering.
At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Feess condemned Stern’s conduct as a
“calculated, deliberate scheme victimizing a wide variety of people,” including
Stern’s own employees and a “diverse group of businesses.”
Stern’s office manager, Fran Ronnie Hayes, who was also charged in this case and
pleaded guilty, died before being sentenced.
This case was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Postal Inspection