(CN) – A man who raked in more than $1 million from a bogus work-at-home scam pleaded guilty to mail fraud in Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday. Philip Pestrichello had promised his victims that they could earn $1 for each postcard they labeled and mailed, assuring them that “this is NOT a gimmick or some shady ‘get rich quick scheme.'”
Pestrichello, operating as Preferred Platinum Services Network, placed ads that read, “Would you like an opportunity to earn a $475 check from home processing Mortgage Products Postcards for our company?”
Those who enrolled in the work-at-home program were promised $1 for each postcard they labeled and mailed. But to receive the materials, they had to pay an up-front enrollment fee of $80 to $90 and they generally forked over more money to order more postcards.
The postcards advertised a nonexistent “Mortgage Accelerator Program,” according to the indictment.
Most of the people who signed up did not receive any money, prosecutors said, and the few who did received nowhere close to the promised $1 per postcard sent.
Pestrichello’s company made more than $1.2 million from the scam.
When consumers complained about not receiving their money, the company either ignored their complaints or told them that the program was commission-based. Preferred Platinum typically only gave refunds to people who complained to law enforcement.
Prosecutors said Pestrichello sent threatening letters to people who filed online complaints warning others about the scam. In one such letter, he included a fake lawsuit number and told a consumer he would sue if she did not retract her statement.
Authorities arrested Pestrichello in March. He has a history of similar scams dating back to at least 1992. In 2003, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison in connection with another work-at-home scheme.
He is scheduled for sentencing in October and faces up to 20 years in prison. The case against co-defendant Rosalie Florie and Pestrichello’s wife is pending.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Zornberg is in charge of the prosecution.