Two individuals have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for their roles in business opportunity fraud schemes run out of Escazú and La Sabana, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced.
Silvio Carrano and Gregory Britt Fleming were arrested following their indictment by a Miami federal grand jury March 9, based on charges that they and their co-conspirators sold vending machine, beverage and greeting card business opportunities, including fraudulent promises of assistance in establishing, maintaining and operating such businesses. The charges are part of the government’s continued nationwide crackdown on business opportunity fraud. Sentencing has been scheduled for April 20.
Two others involved in this scheme have been arrested and pleaded guilty. On June 29, Donald Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. On Oct. 27 he was sentenced to 78 months in prison. On Jan. 18, Patrick Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 10 counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud. Patrick Williams is scheduled to be sentenced March 30.
According to court documents, beginning in June 2004, Carrano, Patrick Williams, Donald Williams, Fleming and
their co-conspirators fraudulently induced purchasers in the United States to buy business opportunities in Apex Management Group Inc., USA Beverages Inc., Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee Inc., Cards-R-Us Inc., Premier Cards Inc., The Coffee Man Inc. and Nation West Distribution Co. The defendants sold business opportunities costing thousands of dollars each, and most purchasers paid at least $10,000. Each company operated for several months, and after one company closed, the next opened. The various companies used bank accounts, office space and other services in the Southern District of Florida and elsewhere.
The defendants, using aliases, participated in a conspiracy that used various means to make it appear to potential purchasers that the businesses were located entirely in the United States. In reality, Carrano, Patrick Williams, Donald Williams and Fleming operated out of Costa Rica to fraudulently induce potential purchasers in the United States to buy the purported business opportunities, according to court documents.
Carrano and Fleming admitted that the companies made numerous false statements to potential purchasers of the business opportunities. Potential purchasers were falsely told they would likely earn substantial profits; that prior purchasers of the business opportunities were earning meaningful profits; and that the business opportunity worked with locators familiar with the potential purchaser’s area who would secure or had already secured high-traffic locations for the potential purchaser’s merchandise stands.