WASHINGTON - Four owners of Costa Rica-based telemarketing call centers, an employee and a Texas-based list broker were sentenced yesterday for their roles in defrauding thousands of U.S. victims of more than $20 million through a phony sweepstakes scheme following a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of the Inspector General.
To date, 39 defendants have been convicted for their participation in Costa Rican-based fraudulent telemarketing schemes based on false claims that the victims had won large sweepstakes prizes.
U.S. District Court Judge Frank D. Whitney of the Western District of North Carolina sentenced Michael Mangarella, 49, of Brooklyn, N.Y., to 50 years in prison; Antonio Carl Testore, 54, of Montreal, Canada, to 97 months in prison; Martin Kalchstein, 63, of Brooklyn, to six years in prison; Jaime Ligator, 68, of Miami, to five years in prison; Michal Zakrzewski, 42, of Montreal, to 126 months in prison; and Trent Nyfeller, 44, of Dallas, to 41 months in prison. In addition, Mangarella was ordered to forfeit $10 million, Testore was ordered to forfeit $1.5 million and Ligator was ordered to forfeit $2.6 million. The defendants, except Kalchstein, also were ordered to pay restitution of $4,291,473, jointly and severally with other defendants. The defendants were also sentenced to three years of supervised release following their prison terms.
All of the defendants, except Kalchstein, were convicted of conspiring to defraud U.S. residents, most above the age of 55, out of millions of dollars by deceiving them into believing that each had won a large monetary prize in a "sweepstakes contest." According to court documents, calls to victims were made from Costa Rica using computers to make telephone calls through the Internet, disguising the originating location of the calls. Victims were informed that the callers were from the "Sweepstakes Security Commission" and that to receive their "prize," victims had to wire to Costa Rica thousands of dollars for a purported "refundable insurance fee." As long as the victims continued to pay, the co-conspirators continued to solicit more money from them. Mangarella was convicted at trial in September 2008. The remaining defendants all pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme: Ligator in September 2009; Zakrzewski in June 2009; Testore in August 2008; and Nyfeller in January 2007.
Kalchstein, who had already been convicted in the sweepstakes scheme and sentenced to 90 months in prison, pleaded guilty in June 2009 to failure to report to prison and obstruction of justice as a result of fleeing to Mexico instead of reporting to prison to serve his sentence.