Two men who operated a scam debt collection agency in California were sentenced Monday to a combined 14 years in prison for their roles in a scheme that fleeced clients out of $2.7 million.
Stefan Lemar Miller, former CEO of Maxwell, Turner & Associates, was sentenced to six years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering, while his associate — former salesman Darrian Jeffrey Summers — was sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Officials raided Maxwell, Turner & Associates in December 2010 after clients began complaining to authorities that the company was not remitting money collected on the clients’ behalf. Three men from the firm were charged with various federal crimes.
In June of this year, Summers pleaded guilty to his charges followed closely by a guilty plea from Miller in September. A third man, Paul Anthony Vasquez, will be tried by jury in February. Authorities say that Vasquez was the true owner of the company.
In addition to the time in lockup, Miller and Summers were ordered to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution to 400 clients. Federal officials have also been authorized to seize property to pay back the businesses.
The case was investigated by the IRS, Bakersfield (Calif.) Police Department, and the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.
According to one of the plea agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fresno, Maxwell, Turner and Associates Inc. (MTA) purported to be a debt collection agency based in Bakersfield. The company used telemarketing to fish for clients. When MTA collected money from debtors, they would not send the money to their clients. MTA would also tell clients that additional fees were needed to advance the litigation process, although no litigation was actually taking place.
From February 2009 until May 2010, the company took in nearly $2.7 million, none of which was remitted to clients. At one point, the company employed as many as 15 people.