• Wed. Sep 27th, 2023
Frank Interlicchia Jr

Posted on: August 22, 2023, 11:48h. 

Last updated on: August 22, 2023, 12:07h.

A man who operated a telemarketing call located in Las Vegas was indicted last week following a federal inquiry into fraudulent fundraising operations.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams
US Attorney Damian Williams, pictured above. The New York federal prosecutor announced an indictment last week. One of the suspects is from Las Vegas and operates a call center. (Image: NY1)

Richard Zeitlin, 53, of Las Vegas, was apprehended at his home on Thursday by federal agents, according to Las Vegas TV station KLAS.

He later was charged with a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, and a count of wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, according to Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was also charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.

Also arrested was Robert Piaro, 73, of Wisconsin, the treasurer of four political action committees (PACs). He was charged with a count of wire fraud and a count of mail fraud.

Piaro more than $28M from hundreds of thousands of donors, prosecutors claim.

“Richard Zeitlin and Robert Piaro lied to donors who thought they were giving to groups that were helping veterans, aiding law enforcement , and fighting breast cancer,” Williams said in a statement. “Zeitlin and Piaro allegedly exploited these important causes and the intentions of everyday citizens to steal millions of in small donations. Today's arrests demonstrate this Office's commitment to ensuring that those who exploit charitable causes and political action committees for their own personal will be held responsible for their crimes.”

Misleading Information

Between 2017 and 2020, Zeitlin's telemarketing call centers, identified as the Zeitlin Call Centers, allegedly defrauded donors “by providing misleading and false information about how the donors' money would be spent and the nature of the organizations to which they were giving,” the statement revealed.

Call center changed call scripts and misled donors to believe they would be giving to a charity rather than a PAC, Williams said.

The PACs included Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer, the for Emergency Responders & Firefighters, the U.S. Veterans Assistance Foundation, and Standing By Veterans.

Throughout their history, the Zeitlin Call Centers have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charities and PACs, and Zeitlin entities kept a “substantial percentage” of the funds raised by the call center, typically about 90%, prosecutors added. The remaining funds went to the charity or PAC.

After May 2022, Zeitlin told an employee to instruct other workers to delete electronic messages at the business, prosecutors said.

Zeitlin told his future clients to operate PACs rather than charities because of less-restrictive regulations, the indictment further revealed.

If convicted, each of the counts has a maximum sentence of either 20 years or 30 years in prison.

Civil Lawsuit

In 2021, donors filed a class action lawsuit in Pennsylvania against Zeitlin following the release of a from the Center for Public Integrity.

The lawsuit claims Zeitlin and his violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by “siphoning … donations out in the form of enormous profits.”

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