A federal judge is sending an Arizona man to prison after he scammed hundreds of elderly people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And it was a Phoenix attorney and landlord who helped law enforcement track him down in Ahwatukee.
The U.S. Attorney's Office accused Phoenix resident Raheem Oliver, 38, of playing a role in a magazine scam that defrauded at least 354 elderly victims out of more than $640,000.
"Not content to simply deceive his victims, Oliver would badger and threaten his victims to extort even more money from them," said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "This conduct is depraved in its own way and hopefully there will be some relief to the victims and their loved ones knowing that Oliver won't be in a position to harm anyone else."
Oliver pleaded guilty in February to fraud conspiracy charges. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison Friday.
MORE: Arizona fake magazine scam took $550,000 from 250 mostly elderly victims
An Arizona tale
Phoenix attorney Mark Pyper placed a listing for his Ahwatukee home after he and his wife decided to downsize.
That's when he met Oliver.
"He showed up in a new black Mercedes and seemed to have money," Pyper told The Arizona Republic.
Pyper learned of Oliver's prior criminal history when performing a background check during the approval process. Oliver had spent time in prison for burglary.
"He went into a song and dance that he was a changed man," said the attorney of more than 30 years.
Pyper decided to give Oliver a chance. He said Oliver told him he was taking care of his family and had a successful magazine business.
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Oliver wrote the attorney a check. Pyper said that was the only check he received on time.
While living in the rental home, Pyper said the resident was late with his rent and did not get along well with the attorney's employees. His landscaper and others quit because of interactions with Oliver, according to Pyper.
Four months into the lease, Pyper received a check by mail from a man in Kentucky. The check equaled the amount of Oliver's rent.
"Isn't that odd that some guy in Kentucky is sending me rent for my house in Arizona," recalled Pyper.
He called the man who sent the check. The older man told him that he was contacted by Oliver, who had told him he had a 20-year-old magazine subscription and owed $18,000. The man said Oliver told him he had a court hearing the next day.
"I knew that was garbage," Pyper said.
The attorney performed a court search and found no court case pending on the man.
Pyper contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to alert them of his suspicions. The agency referred him to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
"They were very happy to hear from me, and they had Mr. Oliver on their radar," he said.
Pyper provided the department with information and gave approval for a raid of his home.
"That was the beginning of the end for this guy," he said.
During the raid, Oliver's computers were seized.
The U.S. Attorney's Office took Oliver's case to court and Pyper evicted him.
"It is nice as a citizen to participate in something positive," Pyper said.
But he said he was disappointed by the length of the sentence. He said he had hoped for a longer sentence to prevent Oliver from restarting the scam when he's released.
The U.S. Attorney's Office accused Oliver of directing others to use telemarketing to contact victims to help with subscription renewals. Victims were double-charged and other unauthorized charges were made.
The companies were called National Publishers Magazine LLC, ReadersElection.com, Magazine Subscriptions Renewed, My Magazines LLC and Platinum Reader Magazine.
In addition to the magazine scam, Oliver and others used victims' credit card numbers and bank account information to pay for personal expenses and travel, according to court records.
Court records said spoofing technology and other tools were used to impersonate government officials and to make phone calls appear they were coming from local courthouses near his victims' locations.
The U.S. Attorney pointed out that Oliver has been convicted of multiple felonies. In 2010, Oliver was released from prison after serving six years on armed robbery and kidnapping convictions in Arizona.
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One of the victims
According to court records, one of the scam's victims was World War II veteran Norman T. Hatch. Hatch served as a U.S. Marine Corps combat cinematographer. His work was used in the Academy Award-winning documentary "With the Marines at Tarawa."
"Toward the end of his long and remarkable life. Norm Hatch deserved the very best this country had to offer," said court records. "Instead, several years before his death, he had the misfortune to be targeted and victimized by the defendant, Raheem Oliver."
According to records, Oliver offered to renew one of Hatch's magazine subscriptions before repeatedly harassing the veteran. Hatch was accused of owing fraudulent companies money for about 200 subscriptions.
Court documents said Oliver threatened to take Hatch to court and convinced him to send over $98,000 of his savings in the form of personal checks.
Read full story at https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/ahwatukee/2018/08/20/arizona-lawyer-helps-feds-catch-scam-artist-raheem-oliver-mark-pyper/1019581002/