In a shocking case of financial fraud, a West Los Angeles man has been charged with orchestrating a decade-long telemarketing scheme that scammed elderly victims out of more than $4.5 million. Michael Alexai Dragunov, along with his accomplice Christopher Michael Lang, allegedly posed as representatives of companies offering services to timeshare owners. Through false promises and deceptive tactics, they convinced victims to pay recurring fees for advertising services that were never provided. If convicted, Dragunov and Lang could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for each count. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of reporting financial fraud and protecting vulnerable individuals from falling victim to such schemes.
In recent years, telemarketing schemes have become increasingly prevalent and pose a significant threat to individuals, particularly the elderly. These schemes often involve deceptive tactics and false promises in order to scam victims out of their hard-earned money. One such scheme was recently uncovered by law enforcement authorities, involving a West Los Angeles man who allegedly ran a decade-long telemarketing scam that defrauded elderly victims out of over $4.5 million.
II. Overview of the Telemarketing Scheme
The telemarketing scheme in question primarily targeted elderly victims who owned timeshare properties. The alleged mastermind behind the scheme, Michael Alexai Dragunov, and his accomplice, Christopher Michael Lang, portrayed themselves as representatives of companies offering advertising and other services to timeshare owners. Through this guise, they sought to gain the trust of their victims and convince them to enter into agreements with their telemarketing companies.
III. Defendants and Charges
Dragunov and Lang have been charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. These charges stem from their alleged involvement in the telemarketing scheme, which spanned from August 2013 to June 2023. If convicted, Dragunov and Lang could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for each count.
IV. Companies Involved
The indictment alleges that Dragunov and Lang represented various companies throughout the telemarketing scheme. These companies included Premier Marketing LLC, CML Marketing Specialists Inc., Condo Rental Associates LLC, and Paramount Media LLC. These companies were purported to provide advertising and other services to timeshare owners, serving as a front to deceive victims and legitimize their fraudulent activities.
V. Targeting Elderly Victims
One of the most disturbing aspects of this telemarketing scheme is the deliberate targeting of elderly victims. The indictment reveals that a significant portion of the victims were elderly individuals who were more vulnerable to manipulation and deception. Dragunov and Lang preyed on their victims’ trust and exploited their desire to sell or rent their timeshare properties.
VI. Methods Used to Conceal Identity and Scheme
In order to conceal their true identities and the fraudulent nature of their scheme, Dragunov and Lang employed various methods. They used Skype messaging service phone numbers to communicate with their victims, making it more difficult to trace their actions. Furthermore, they operated under aliases, using false names such as “Michael Anthony Farole,” “Michael LeFleur,” “Victor Romano,” and “James Logan.”
VII. False Promises and Misrepresentations
One of the key tactics employed by Dragunov and Lang was the use of false promises and misrepresentations. Victims were falsely led to believe that the telemarketing companies would assist them in selling or renting their timeshare properties for a “one-time” advertising fee. However, despite the recurring fees paid by the victims, no services were rendered, and no proceeds from the sale or rental of the timeshares were received.
VIII. Refunds and Taxes
To further deceive their victims, Dragunov and Lang made false claims regarding refunds and taxes. They allegedly told victims that the fees being requested would be refunded or reimbursed after the completion of the timeshare sale or rental. Additionally, they claimed that the victims still owed taxes on their timeshare properties, leading to additional payment demands. These false assertions were used to extract more money from the victims.
IX. Phony Transactions with Payment Processing Accounts
In an effort to create the illusion of legitimacy, Dragunov and Lang engaged in numerous phony transactions with the telemarketing companies’ payment processing accounts. By pretending to be customers of the companies, they sought to deceive victims into believing that the companies were legitimate and that their money was being used appropriately. These transactions served to further enrich Dragunov and Lang at the expense of their victims.
X. Enriching Themselves with Victims’ Money
Ultimately, the motive behind this telemarketing scheme was personal enrichment at the expense of vulnerable victims. Dragunov and Lang allegedly concealed material facts from their victims, failing to disclose that their money was being used for personal gain. Through deception, false promises, and misrepresentations, the defendants defrauded elderly individuals out of millions of dollars, all while enriching themselves.
In conclusion, the telemarketing scheme orchestrated by Michael Alexai Dragunov and Christopher Michael Lang highlights the need for increased awareness and vigilance when dealing with telemarketers. Particularly, the elderly population should be empowered with the knowledge and resources to identify potential scams and protect themselves from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Law enforcement authorities continue to work diligently to expose and prosecute those responsible for preying on vulnerable individuals in these types of schemes.