Five Charlotte area residents who got $6 million from people nationwide by “bullying” them on the phone were sentenced to federal prison on Monday.
Those sentenced in U.S. District Court in Charlotte participated in a Mecklenburg County-based debt collection scheme in which they posed as police officers and lawyers to scare thousands into sending them money, prosecutors said.
The ringleader was 36-year-old Cedrick Clark of Concord, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Clark learned how to run the scam from 51-year-old Timothy Scott of Charlotte, according to an indictment unsealed last week that accuses Scott and five others of participating in a similar debt collection scheme.
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On Monday, Clark was sentenced to three years and six months in prison. Also sentenced were Michael Boughner, 49, of Charlotte to three years and five months; Cynthia Martinez, 37, of Charlotte to three years; Felicia Shaw, 46, of Gastonia to two years; and Humberto Gonzalez, 31, of Charlotte to a year and six months in prison. A sixth co-defendant, Benjamin Murray, 28, of Charlotte awaits sentencing.
Court records show Clark was the sole owner, operator and leader of a fraudulent debt collection company called Capital Solutions Agency, Berkeley Hughes and Associates and Vortex Group.
The fraudsters threatened people with criminal charges, harassed their family members and friends and even called their employers.
In handing down the sentences, U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad Jr. called their conduct “reprehensible.” They were “predatory” and used “bullying techniques” and “brutal tactics involving threats of jail,” the judge said
Each of the six defendants previously pleaded guilty to engaging in a fraudulent debt collection conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Clark pleaded guilty to an additional count of money laundering.