Two Las Vegas men have been convicted in Houston in a multimillion-dollar telemarketing scheme across the United States and Canada that left nearly 1,000 victims in its wake.
Ronald Frank Muise, 51, and his son Michael Derek Muise, 28, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in the five-year scheme, according to federal prosecutors in Houston.
They are to be sentenced in Houston on March 17.
The Muises and other co-conspirators used various businesses known as The Jariv Companies to conduct a telemarketing timeshare resale scheme targeting potential owners throughout the United States and Canada, prosecutors alleged.
The defendants solicited timeshare owners by telephone to pay advance fees in exchange for promises of willing buyers for the properties. But the defendants did not market the properties, and between 2011 and 2012 alone, they kept $6 million of the solicited funds, according to prosecutors.
All of the Jariv Companies were registered in various states and conducted business at multiple addresses in Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.
Prosecutors alleged that the Muises and their employees falsely represented they had buyers for timeshare weeks and solicited as much as several thousand dollars in fees from some owners. They also falsely represented the fees were refundable at closing and were used to secure the owners’ place in an acquisition involving corporate buyers, as well as to pay for legal expenses such as title searches and closing costs, prosecutors alleged.
The defendants made several false representations to give the appearance of legitimacy to the scheme, including posting fake testimonials on websites for The Jariv Companies purporting to be from satisfied customers, according to prosecutors. The testimonials actually written by employees.
The investigation was conducted by U.S. Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation in Houston with assistance by FBI and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.