LAWFUEL – Legal News, Legal Jobs Network – R. Alexander Acos…

LAWFUEL – Legal News, Legal Jobs Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Henry Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, announced that two boiler room telemarketers were sentenced today by United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez in connection with their participation in fraudulent business opportunity sales at a Miami firm called Pantheon Holdings, a/k/a Internet Machine Company (“Pantheon”). Jeffrey Kuba, a/k/a “Jeffrey Cooper” was sentenced to one hundred and eighty-eight (188) months’ imprisonment, three (3) years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $18,064,018.78 in restitution. Blake Ladenheim was sentenced to sixty (60) months’ imprisonment, three (3) years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $1,944,805 in restitution. Michael Press was sentenced to thirty-four (34) months’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $1,962,645 in restitution.

According to charging documents, Pantheon promoted the business opportunities to consumers across the country through television commercials, the Internet and other media, misrepresenting the profits that could be earned by purchasing a Pantheon distributorship, and urging consumers to call a telephone number that appeared in the advertisements. Potential purchasers were told that for a purchase price of approximately $18,000, Pantheon would, among other things: perform all the legwork of the business and the purchaser only needed to plug in the kiosk and wipe it down periodically; find appropriate, viable, and high-traffic locations to place the kiosks; relocate any kiosk that underperformed; place national advertisements on the kiosk; and only sell distributorships in a limited geographic area. Pantheon salespeople falsely represented to potential purchasers that they would earn their investment back in nine months to a year.

Defendant Jeffrey Kuba, a/k/a “Jeffrey Cooper,” was also the lead customer service representative who handled the most vocal and dissatisfied customers whose complaints were not satisfied by other customer service representatives Pantheon employed. Defendant Kuba reassured purchasers of Pantheon’s intentions to ship kiosks to viable locations and to make purchasers’ business opportunities profitable. These assurances lulled purchasers into a false sense of security, postponed inquiries and complaints, and made the transaction less suspect. Defendant Kuba also converted complaints into additional sales or “loads.”

Defendant Blake Ladenheim was a Pantheon “closer.” Closers made several misrepresentations about the profit that would be generated by the business, territorial limitations, the viability of locations, and ongoing customer support and technical assistance that Pantheon would be providing.

Defendant Michael Press was a Pantheon salesman known as a “Back-from-the-Dead,” or “BFD” salesman. If a closer was unsuccessful in closing a deal, Press called the potential purchaser back within a few days or weeks in an attempt to resurrect the deal. Press typically falsely represented that another person had cancelled a large order of kiosks for personal reasons and that, as a result, Pantheon could offer these kiosks to the purchaser for a substantially reduced price.

Jeffrey Kuba, Blake Ladenheim, Michael Press, and their co-conspirators fraudulently induced approximately 738 consumers to invest a total of more than $18 million in Pantheon.

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Postal Inspection Service. This is one of a series of cases in which defendants have been convicted of similar schemes involving the sale of various fraudulent business opportunities involving Internet terminals, movie rental terminals, “cashless ATM machines” (which provide a receipt which consumers convert to cash at the register of the store where the machine was located), and other worthless “opportunities.” The Pantheon cases are being prosecuted by Jill Furman and Richard Goldberg, Trial Attorneys, United States Department of Justice, Office of Consumer Litigation.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/.

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