LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United…

LAWFUEL – Legal News 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 defendant Eric Bridges pled guilty today before United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez in connection with his participation in fraudulent business opportunity sales at a firm called Pantheon Holdings, a/k/a Internet Machine Company (“Pantheon”). Bridges pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and to substantive mail and wire fraud counts.

Three other defendants, Jay Mayne, Sanford Gold, and Kathy Eidelstein, previously pled guilty in connection with the same scheme. Mayne pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on June 30, 2006. Gold pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and to substantive mail and wire fraud counts, on August 5, 2006. Eidelstein pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and to a substantive wire fraud count, on August 5. The defendants face a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years per count, a possible fine, and mandatory restitution.

Sentencing for Mayne is scheduled before United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez for September 11, 2006; sentencing for Sanford Gold and Kathy Eidelstein is scheduled for October 15, 2006; and sentencing for Eric Bridges is scheduled on October 30, 2006.

According to the Superseding Indictment, Mayne, Gold, Eidelstein, Bridges, and other defendants engaged in the fraudulent sale of business opportunities through Pantheon. Pantheon purported to sell Internet kiosks, along with assistance in establishing, maintaining, and operating an Internet kiosk business. Pantheon promoted the business opportunities to consumers across the country largely through television commercials. For a purchase price of between $17,000 to $19,000, purchasers were told they would receive an Internet kiosk that would generate revenue for them through Internet use, the sale of pre-paid services and products, and advertising that would be placed on the terminal by Pantheon. Mayne, Gold, Eidelstein, Bridges and others fraudulently induced over 700 consumers to invest a total of approximately $17 million in Pantheon.

Mayne and Eidelstein were Pantheon salespeople, known as “closers.” Gold was known as a loader whose job it was to entice existing Pantheon distributors to buy more terminals. Eric Bridges was a bogus Pantheon reference.

As Pantheon salespeople, Mayne, Eidelstein, and Gold made several misrepresentations about the business. For instance, they falsely told prospective distributors that, after making their investment, the only thing distributors needed to do was plug in the kiosk and wipe it down and that Pantheon performed all the legwork of the business when, in fact, the most difficult and time consuming part of the business, securing viable locations in which to place the kiosks, was largely the distributor’s responsibility because of Pantheon’s inability and unwillingness to do so. Mayne, Eidelstein, and Gold also told prospective purchasers that the average Pantheon distributor earned his or her investment back in nine months to a year when, in fact, no Pantheon distributor had earned back his or her initial investment in a year.

As a bogus Pantheon reference, Eric Bridges falsely claimed to have purchased and had success operating Pantheon kiosks and vouched for the support and assistance that Pantheon provided. In fact, Bridges was a friend of co-defendant Jay Mayne. He never purchased an Internet kiosk and did not own or operate a successful Pantheon business. Bridges was paid to misrepresent his success to potential purchasers.

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” that provide a receipt which consumers convert to cash at the register of the store where the machine was located, and other worthless “opportunities.” These 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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