According to court documents, Michael Zeto, 77, of Las Vegas, partnered with foreign telemarketers, who provided Zeto with the names, bank account numbers, and other personal information for American consumers.
Many of these consumers had purchased no products or services from the telemarketers and had not authorized anyone to debit their bank accounts. Zeto used the information provided by his telemarketing partners to create fraudulent checks payable to companies he controlled and debited consumers’ bank accounts. Many of Zeto’s victims were retirees and other older adults.
“The defendant was a vital link in a scheme with foreign telemarketing partners to steal money from American victims’ bank accounts,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting older Americans from fraud and to prosecuting people who knowingly help fraudsters.”
“With our increasing use and dependency on technology, fraudsters have found new ways to scam unsuspecting Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada. “Americans, and Nevadans in particular, can be assured that our office is committed to investigating and prosecuting elder financial fraud scams.”
“Today’s guilty plea holds the defendant accountable for his role in a multimillion dollar fraudulent check scheme that targeted the bank accounts of American consumers,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Justin Bundy of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General Chicago Division. “The FDIC-OIG remains dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to pursue those who seek to defraud elderly and vulnerable Americans, and threaten the integrity of the banking system.”
“This conviction is the direct result of a diligent investigation by hardworking Postal Inspectors and our partners at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General,” said Inspector in Charge Ruth Mendonça of the FDIC-OIG Chicago Division. “Working together, their perseverance unraveled the defendant’s complex scheme to defraud some of our nation’s most vulnerable victims and delivered the justice that each victim deserved. We are proud of the investigative team’s efforts to uphold the mission of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) to protect postal customers and consumers from fraudsters.”
Zeto pleaded guilty to wire fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The USPIS and FDIC-OIG are investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Daniel Zytnick and Timothy Finley of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Anthony Lopez for the District of Nevada are prosecuting the case.
The department urges individuals to be on the lookout for unauthorized debits to their accounts. Check your bank, credit card, and other financial statements and contact your financial institution if you see a charge you do not recognize. Report any fraudulent debit you identify to law enforcement. Reports may be filed with the FTC at http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.