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Feds charge two men with defrauding elderly in timeshare telemarketing scheme

The men are accused of bilking about 370 victims out of $4.5 million.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Federal prosecutors charged two men with running a decade-long fraud scheme whereby elderly victims were persuaded to hire telemarketing companies with false promises of helping the victims sell or rent their timeshare properties.

Michael Dragunov, 44, aka Michael Farole, of West LA, and Christopher Lang, 42, of Hays, Kansas, each face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud, according to a statement Tuesday from the U.S. attorney's office in LA. If convicted, they could spend as long as 30 years in prison on each count.

The two allegedly bilked their victims out of $4.5 million between 2013 and 2023 by pretending they worked for telemarketing companies that provided advertising services for timeshare owners. Some of the victims paid hundreds of thousands in fees over several years, but they didn't receive any of the services they were promised.

Dragunov and Lang allegedly told their victims that the fees they requested would be refunded or reimbursed upon completion of the sale or rental of the victims’ timeshare and that, if the victims tried to dispute their payments with the companies, they would automatically lose their disputes as well as all the money they had paid and any proceeds from a sale or rental of their timeshares.

Attorneys for the two men didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the allegations.

According to an affidavit in support of a warrant to search Dragunov's residence and cars, the two men conspired with at least four individuals, only identified by their initials, to target elderly victims between 55 and 90 years old who owned timeshares or vacation memberships.

Dragunov, identified as Farole in the affidavit, and Lang would contact the victims through Skype calls and text messages to collect advance fee payments for the telemarketing services, and Dragunov would direct the victims to withdraw money from their savings and retirement accounts to pay for the services. Dragunov, according to the affidavit, also told the victims to lie to their banks about the reasons they took out the money.

About 370 people were victimized by the scam and none of the victims interviewed by the FBI received any benefit from the bogus services they paid for.

Dragunov was the ringleader of the fraud conspiracy and set up most of the telemarketing companies that were instrumental in the scheme and appeared to have done no legitimate business, according to the FBI agent's affidavit. He used a slue of aliases in his communications with the victims, according to the FBI, and he spent the victims' money to pay the rent on his private residence, and on luxury goods and cars.

Dragunov was arrested June 28 and is currently held without bail. Lang was arrested in Kansas and released last week after posting $120,000 bond and surrendering his passport. He's expected to be arraigned in LA in the coming weeks, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

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Categories / Business, Consumers, Criminal

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