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3 people plead guilty in $300M telemarketing fraud scheme

They were among the 60 people charged last month in a scheme that involved convincing older people to pay for expensive fraudulent magazine subscriptions.

Three people have pleaded guilty in federal court to playing a role in a $300 million telemarketing scheme.

U.S. District Attorney Erica McDonald announced on Monday the guilty pleas of Terry Lynn Christensen, 73, of Fort Myers, Florida; Todd Allen Hughes, 47, of Holstein, Iowa; and Jessica Marie Prince, 40, of Thayer, Missouri. 

They, along with 60 other people, were indicted late last month in connection to what MacDonald called the "largest elder fraud scheme in the nation." MacDonald said the suspects convinced vulnerable populations, often elderly people, to pay for expensive fraudulent magazine subscriptions. 

According to the pleas, Christensen worked at multiple fraudulent magazine companies with call centers based in Florida. There, Christensen trained employees to use scripts to target victims and persuade them to sign up for expensive magazine subscriptions. 

In total, the magazine companies defrauded victims out of more than $98 million between 2009 and 2020. Christensen has agreed to pay $100,000 in restitution as part of his guilty plea.

Hughes worked for another fraudulent magazine, called The Magazine Deal, out of his Iowa home, the release says. Hughes would use a script to convince victims, also often elderly, that they owned large debts for existing magazine subscriptions. Hughes would offer to pay for the nonexistent debt in exchange for a lump-sum payment.

Hughes has agreed to pay $50,000 in restitution to victims as part of his guilty plea.

Prince worked at a call center for Readers Club of America in Missouri. Telemarketers at the call center would call victims to sign up for expensive magazine subscriptions using lies and deception. Readers Club of American collected more than $4 million from victims between 2014 and 2020.

Prince agreed to pay the entire sum collected as part of her guilty plea. 

Christensen and Prince have been convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Hughes has been convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

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