Three Missouri women stand accused of running a fraudulent $300 million telemarketing scheme that targeted the elderly. The three women own and operate a magazine subscriptions sales company based in Missouri and allegedly used dozens of workers to scam senior citizens on bogus magazine subscription agreements.

Largest elder fraud scheme so far

The U.S. Dept. of Justice says the 60 defendants engaged in the “largest elder fraud” so far uncovered in the United States. The federal case accuses the defendants of conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud. They also are accused of violating the Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams Act of 1994. The dozens of defendants in the case are scattered across 14 states and two provinces in Canada.

Decades-long scandal

Federal prosecutors say the defendants perpetrated the scheme over two decades and defrauded more than 150,000 mostly elderly victims by inducing them to make large and repeated payments for magazine subscriptions. The telemarketers allegedly lied to victims by falsely claiming to represent legitimate magazine subscriber services and claiming to seek renewals on existing subscriptions. The feds accuse defendants of selling entirely new and costly magazine subscriptions with automatic renewals in place. Prosecutors also say that the defendants made it nearly impossible to cancel bogus subscriptions.

Case illustrates worker vulnerability

While the women who own and supervise the operation are accused of several felony crimes, so are the dozens of workers who made the phone calls. In many such cases of alleged fraud, many workers have no criminal intent and are working under the impression that the entire operation in legal and honest. When no actual criminal intent existed, it is much easier to argue that the workers also are victims of a fraud designed and executed by a few people at the top.

An experienced criminal law attorney in the greater St. Louis area may review criminal accusations and help to determine the weaknesses prosecutors’ cases. A well-established defense might help earn a fair outcome for those accused of such white-collar crimes.