LAWFUEL – US Attorney News – 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 on September 18, 2006, a jury found Mark Pelle guilty on all charges against him in connection with his participation in fraudulent business opportunity sales at a Miami firm called Pantheon Holdings, a/k/a Internet Machine Company (“Pantheon”). Pelle was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, four counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and two counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Pelle was a seasoned salesperson, known as a “closer,” at Pantheon. Pantheon purported to sell Internet kiosks, along with assistance in establishing, maintaining, and operating an Internet kiosk business. Pelle and his co-conspirators told business opportunity purchasers that they would earn substantial profits when members of the public used the kiosk to access the Internet for a fee, and from revenue generated by advertisements that Pantheon would place on the kiosks.
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. Mark Pelle and others falsely represented to potential purchasers that they would earn their investment back in 9 months to a year.
Pelle faces a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years on each count, a fine, and mandatory restitution. Sentencing is scheduled before the Honorable Jose E. Martinez on November 28, 2006.
In a related matter, on September 11, 2006, co-defendant Jay Mayne, a/k/a “Jay Maine,” was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 180 months for his role in the Pantheon conspiracy. Jay Mayne was a closer and also served as a manager and supervisor of other Pantheon closers and most Pantheon references. The references posed as successful Pantheon distributors, but in fact were paid shills. Mayne pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on June 30, 2006. In addition to the term of imprisonment, Mayne was sentenced to a three year term of supervised release, and ordered to pay $17,808,118.78 in restitution.
Mark Pelle, Jay Mayne, and their co-conspirators fraudulently induced approximately 735 consumers to invest a total of more than $17 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/ .