A man has been charged with scamming more than $12 million from tens of thousands of people who signed up for what authorities allege was a bogus credit card offer.
A federal indictment issued Wednesday and unveiled Thursday charges Peter Porcelli II with mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.
Authorities say Porcelli, 55, of Oldsmar, Fla., and others who were not named in the indictment offered consumers a MasterCard credit card for a fee ranging from $160 to $500.
Those charged the fee were sent offers that usually were already available for free to the public, along with an “acceptance form” for what amounted to a prepaid card, which cost consumers an extra $15.
Authorities say Porcelli defrauded or tried to dupe at least 165,000 Americans, many with poor credit histories.
Porcelli has an unlisted home telephone number and could not be reached Thursday for comment. His federal arraignment in Illinois has been set for April 5.
Used call centers outside U.S., government says
The U.S. government alleges that Porcelli carried out the scam through several Florida-based companies beginning in June 2001, using call centers in several states and outside the U.S.
The alleged scam ended when the Federal Trade Commission sued Porcelli and others in August 2002. A federal judge later barred Porcelli and other defendants from telemarketing and selling credit-related products, and ordered them to pay more than $12 million in restitution.
Porcelli, who filed for bankruptcy in 2003, has insisted in a previous court affidavit that he did nothing wrong, the St. Petersburg Times has reported.
The most serious of the 19 counts Porcelli is charged with carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence, and each count is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000.