Sanomedics, a company selling thermometers for dogs and humans, was built on a world of lies.
Salespeople lured new investors by dropping the names of other “investors,” including executives from Apple, Pepsi, even “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan. They said sales agents were paid with stock or by the hour and that the stock could be resold after six months.
Those boiler-room lies in Miami Lakes and Marina Del Rey, Calif., led to a six-year, $23 million fraud — and the conviction last week of four people from South Florida and one from California.
For helping rip off more than 700 victims with these and other falsehoods from 2009-2015, the five were convicted Thursday in U.S. District Court in Miami on fraud charges. Joining co-conspirators Craig Sizer, Keith Houlihan, Miguel Mesa, Jack Willard Sini, Juan M. Perez Ortega, Martin Miller, Jason David Hershberger, and Shawna Leigh Lynch, who entered guilty pleas to various fraud charges after their September indictment, are:
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▪ North Bay Village’s Charles K. Topping, 40, seven counts of mail fraud; two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; and one count of wire fraud.
▪ Miami’s Charles Smigrod, 69, two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.
▪ Miami’s Matthew Wheeler, 33, two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.
▪ Miramar’s James Long, 60, one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.
▪ Marina Del Rey’s Anita Sgarro, one count of mail fraud; one count of wire fraud; and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Houlihan’s court statement admits he and Sizer hired Mesa and Sgarro, among others, to run boiler rooms from which phone hustlers would sell Sanomedics stock. Telemarketers operating off the fib-fat script that Houlihan and Sizer created told investors that a limited number of Sanomedics shares were available at a massive discount for a limited time.
But Houlihan and Sizer controlled the number of Sanomedics shares on the market and would create more shares at will with stock splits.
Of the money seduced from victims, around 20 percent actually went to Sanomedics. Sizer gave Mesa 50 percent of what his boiler room suckered from its phone targets. Other money flowed into the pockets of Houlihan, Sizer, Mesa, Sgarro, other boiler room managers and the telecon artists working the phones.
While running the Sanomedics con in 2014 and 2015, Topping, Smigrod, Wheeler, Long, Sizer, Mesa, Sini, Perez, and Miller multi-tasked by running a similar scheme with Fun Cool Free. Sellers were told to claim the company owned over 500 smartphone game apps and partnered with Apple. That earned the group another $1.5 million.