Courts, law and order, scales of justice

A 57-year-old Prior Lake man is one of 60 defendants charged in connection with a $300 million dollar telemarketing fraud scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald announced three separate indictments charging 60 defendants located in 14 states, 16 judicial districts and two Canadian provinces.

“This case represents the largest elder fraud scheme in the nation,” MacDonald said in a statement. “More than 150,000 elderly and vulnerable victims across the United States have been identified in what is essentially a criminal class action.”

David John Moulder of Prior Lake is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and violating the Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams Act of 1994, federal authorities announced.

Moulder is the owner and chief executive officer of several Minnesota-based companies that provided an array of services to companies involved in fraudulent magazine sales, the announcement states.

The announcement Wednesday detailed the allegations outlined in court documents.

Authorities allege the defendants devised and carried out a telemarketing scheme to defraud more than 150,000 victim-consumers located across the United States, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable over the past 20 years.

The alleged scheme centered around a network of fraudulent magazine sales companies, which operated telemarketing call centers from which their employees made calls using deceptive sales scripts.

“Many of the defendants used a fraudulent ‘renewal’ script in which the telemarketers falsely claimed to be calling from the victim-consumer’s existing magazine subscription company about an existing magazine subscription package,” the news release states. “The telemarketers often claimed — falsely — to be calling with an offer to reduce the monthly cost of an existing subscription. In reality, the company had no existing relationship with the victim-consumers and was actually fraudulently signing the victim-consumers up for expensive and entirely new magazine subscriptions.”

“The effect was that a single consumer went from having one magazine subscription to, at times, more than a dozen, all with different fraudulent magazine companies, each “sold” under the auspices of “reducing” the consumer’s monthly rate,” the release continues.

In total, a dozen Minnesotans are named as defendants in the case ranging in age from 26-57.