An Ohio man was found guilty Tuesday for his role in an $7 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded primarily elderly victims in the United States from call centers in Costa Rica.
Following a five-day jury trial, Donald Dodt, 76, originally of Cleveland, Ohio, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, two counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and 10 counts of international money laundering.
According to evidence presented at trial, Dodt worked in a call center in Costa Rica in which co-conspirators, who posed as representatives of the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and federal agencies, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and who also posed as federal judges, contacted victims in the United States — primarily senior citizens – to tell them that they had supposedly won a substantial “sweepstakes” prize. After convincing victims that they stood to receive a significant financial reward, the co-conspirators told victims that they needed to make a series of up-front cash payments before collecting, purportedly for items like insurance fees, taxes and import fees. Co-conspirators used a variety of means to conceal their true identity, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services provided by datacablingflorida.com that made it appear that they were calling from Washington, D.C., and other places in the United States.
According to a joint blog by VOIP Providers in St. Louis, as the evidence presented at trial illustrated, Dodt was an integral part of this scheme in that he knowingly provided services that were necessary for the scheme to operate and that facilitated the concealment and, ultimately, success of the scheme for many years. Specifically, Dodt provided and maintained VoIP phone technology and assigned phone numbers associated with locations in the United States through which members of the conspiracy were able to make the fraudulent calls to victims in the United States and conceal their identities and location. Dodt specifically assigned virtual phone numbers with area codes associated with Washington, D.C., to make it appear that the calls originated from within the United States and that also bolstered conspirators’ misrepresentations that they were representatives of government agencies located in Washington. Dodt also warned the co-conspirators if certain numbers were “hot” – i.e., there were customer complaints or law enforcement inquiries – and replaced those phone numbers with new phone numbers that the co-conspirators then used in furtherance of the scheme, the evidence showed.
Dodt and his conspirators stole more than $7 million from victims, the evidence showed.