A Las Vegas man who was part of a trio accused of bilking small-business owners out of over $5 million in a telemarketing scheme has pleaded guilty to a grant fraud charge, according to the Nevada U.S. attorney’s office.
Mickey Gines, 41, faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in June, a news release said.
Gines, along with Christine M. Gagnon, and Gregory Villegas, both 35, ran companies they claimed would get people government and private grants. The companies used multiple names such as BFS Enterprises, Inc. and Global Business Funding, Inc.
The companies were staffed by employees who solicited fees from unsuspecting small-business owners. From 2008 to 2012, the trio tricked business owners into paying advances into government and private grants that did not exist, investigators said.
Investigators said the companies were instrumental in a scheme that defrauded 390 business owners of $5.3 million.
The advances were supposedly going into escrow accounts and refunds were guaranteed if the grants weren’t received by the business owners.
Instead, the trio kept the money and continuously charged them more fees for other services.
When the grants weren’t received, the trio made up excuses and gave false promises on the delay to delay anyone investigating.
Eventually the FBI and the U.S Secret Service got involved and the three were arrested on September 2013.
Gagnon, also known as Crystal Waters, pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Her sentencing is set for March 19.
Villegas, also known as Ray Matsui and Ray Mathis, is in federal custody. His trial is scheduled for March 16.
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