EAST ST. LOUIS — A Las Vegas, Nevada woman was found guilty of defrauding southern Illinois residents in an alleged telemarketing scam.
Elpenike Eddy-Aldava, 75, was found guilty late on Friday afternoon by a federal jury in East St. Louis.
According to Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Eddy-Aldava participated in an alleged scheme that included victims throughout the United States, including southern Illinois.
Evidence at trial showed that for more than five years, Eddy-Aldava worked as a telemarketer for a Las Vegas telemarketing business.
Although the business frequently changed names, Wigginton said the two primary names of the business were Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max.
According to Wigginton, the telemarketers called timeshare owners throughout the U.S. and offered to help them sell their timeshares. The telemarketers then falsely represented that they had found corporate buyers interested in acquiring blocks of timeshare units and that the victims’ timeshare units could be included in these blocks.
In order to participate in this “corporate block,” however, the telemarketers allegedly told the victims that they had to pay upfront fees, which usually ranged from $2,000 to $3,000.
The telemarketers allegedly falsely told the victims that these fees were needed to pay closing costs. Instead, the telemarketers were paid a large commission for each fraudulent sale. These commissions typically ranged from 40 percent to 50 percent.
Because Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max had no corporate buyers, no timeshares were ever sold to any corporation.
Showcase Resorts and Vacation Max employed people known as “updaters” to handle all of the calls from customers who called in to ask why their timeshares had not been sold as had been promised.
The job of these “updaters” was to provide false excuses to the victims in order to string them along and prevent them from contacting their credit card companies and demanding their money back.
The scheme operated from at least December 5, 2006 until January 24, 2012. The losses caused by the scheme exceeded $11,000,000.
In May 2013, the owner of Vacation Max, Michael Patrick Sullivan, was indicted.
Sullivan pleaded guilty and on January 9 was sentenced to five years in prison.
Three other telemarketers from the scheme, John Nicosia; Robert Kelly Matthews; and Rebecca Mars, as well as one of the “updaters,” Patrick Nosack, were also charged.
Both Nicosia and Matthews pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison. Nosack also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19. Rebecca Marrs’ trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 26, 2016.
The sentencing hearing for Eddy-Aldava is scheduled for Feb. 4, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.
Eddy-Aldava could face up to 25 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and five years of supervised release. In addition, Eddy-Aldava could be ordered to pay restitution to the victims of her crime.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Verseman and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Lu.