The leader of a telemarketing company that allegedly cheated customers of more than $1.6 million was sentenced yesterday to a 63-month prison term.
Jeffrey A. Jordan touted his Meridian Capital Management company as the place to turn for people who had lost money in other telemarketing scams. His firm, he said, had a team of investigators based in the District who would work aggressively to recover lost money--in return for an advance fee.
Instead of helping people get money back from ostrich partnerships, wireless cable licenses and other get-rich-quick schemes, prosecutors said Jordan's firm did little more but pocket the up-front fees. More than 850 people lost money in the mid-1990s, prosecutors said, many of whom were elderly.
Jordan, 33, of Spokane, Wash., was among 17 people indicted last year on charges stemming from the operation. He pleaded guilty last September to money laundering. Twelve others either pleaded guilty or were convicted, and four were acquitted after a trial in U.S. District Court.
During yesterday's sentencing, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected Jordan's request for a lesser prison term, saying, "Clearly this was a crime of greed, victimizing those who had already been victimized."
The judge ordered Jordan to make restitution once he gets out of prison.
According to prosecutors, Jordan's D.C. office was little more than a clearinghouse for the fees and was staffed by a clerk. Customers were led to believe that the D.C. office was strategically located so that Jordan's investigators would be closer to federal regulators. The real action took place in Las Vegas and Tempe, Ariz., where telemarketers made thousands of unsolicited calls to people throughout the country, following carefully worded scripts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham said the scripts had names such as "Been Burnt Before," "Lost Money in the Past," "Get Tough" and "For God's Sake, Trust ME!" In court papers, she cited a passage from a script called "Stand Them Up Hard" for use when prospective customers expressed reluctance about signing up:
"For some reason, you're acting like you're doing me a favor," the telemarketer was supposed to say. "Let me explain something to you. It's your money, but it's our time that we're spending. To be honest with you, so far you really don't sound like the kind of person that we're looking for. Should I let you go or are you going to get excited about getting your money back?"
Jordan started Meridian in January 1995, and the business thrived until customers began complaining to authorities. By August 1995, the company was shut down amid investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and FBI.