LOS ANGELES – The owner of a Canadian telemarketing operation was convicted yesterday by a federal jury of mail and wire fraud for having orchestrated a bogus telemarketing scheme that defrauded at least 60,000 victims of over $18 million dollars.
After fighting extradition for over 10 years, Mark Eldon Wilson, 57, of Vancouver, British Columbia, was convicted following a five-day jury trial before United States District Judge S. James Otero. The federal jury convicted Wilson of seven counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud for having orchestrated a fraudulent cross-border telemarketing scheme that targeted mostly elderly victims and offered a bogus credit card fraud protection program.
The evidence admitted at trial showed that Wilson operated a phony telemarketing scheme through various companies – including OPCO International Inc. and American Fraud Watch Services – from 1998 through 2001 targeting victims in the United States. At his direction, telemarketers misled victims into believing that defendant’s companies were affiliated with victims’ credit card companies and falsely suggested to victims they were vulnerable to credit card fraud and would be held liable for fraudulent charges on their cards. They sold the victims a non-existent credit card “protection” service for approximately $300, and falsely promised a 100% money-back guarantee.
In many instances without authorization, Wilson’s companies charged victims’ credit cards for the full amount of the “protection” service fee, even though they told victims the fee for the service was as little as $2 per month. In reality, Wilson and his companies were not associated with victims’ credit card companies, the credit card companies would not actually hold victims liable for charges arising from credit card fraud, and defendant’s companies did not provide the promised credit-card-monitoring and protection services Wilson claimed they would provide.
Between 1998 and 2001, Wilson and his telemarketing companies solicited over $18,000,000 from more than 60,000 victims in 37 different states, including a number of victims from the Central District of California. Wilson profited handsomely from his fraud, transferring over $100,000 in profits to an offshore account in the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu, purchasing a number of vehicles in the name of his telemarketing companies, and negotiating the purchase of at least one luxury boat that was selling for over $400,000.
At trial, the government called approximately 22 witnesses, including several insiders who worked at Wilson’s companies, numerous victims who were directly defrauded through his efforts, two expert witnesses on credit-card processing and cross-border telemarketing fraud, as well as playing actual undercover recordings that captured the bogus sales pitches of Wilson’s telemarketers.
With a total of nine convictions on mail and wire fraud as well as the jury’s multiple findings that these crimes occurred in connection with the conduct of telemarketing, Wilson faces a maximum sentence of 90 years of imprisonment.
Wilson, who was extradited from Canada in late February 2017 after lengthy proceedings, remains in custody following his convictions, and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 30, 2018.
This case was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Department of Justice – Government of Canada.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney and Senior Litigation Counsel Paul Stern of the Major Frauds section, and Assistant United States Attorneys Roger Hsieh and Joseph Woodring of the General Crimes section.