Montrealer gets 15-month prison term in U.S. for telemarketing fraud

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Montrealer Alberino (Rino) Magi has been sentenced to a 15-month prison term for his role in a fraudulent telemarketing ring that specifically targeted elderly and vulnerable people with false promises of lottery winnings.

Magi, 50, has been detained in the U.S. since April 5, after he was ordered to be extradited to the U.S. where he had faced charges related to the telemarketing ring for a decade. Late last year, he pleaded guilty to being part of a conspiracy and was sentenced on Tuesday at a courthouse in California. According to a spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the time Magi has already served in the U.S. will probably be subtracted from his overall sentence. United States District Judge James Otero also ordered Magi, the brother of Montreal real-estate developer Antonio (Tony) Magi, 58, to pay $286,230 in restitution to 58 victims.

According to court documents filed during Magi’s sentence hearing, police had firm evidence that 165 victims in Canada and the U.S. lost more than $2 million in the scheme. The telemarketing network was based in Montreal and was led by 53-year-old Notre-Dame-de-Grâce resident John Bellini. In 2011, Bellini pleaded guilty to charges in the same case and received an 87-month prison term.

Earlier this month, Magi filed a letter to Otero, as part of the sentencing process, and said that Bellini recruited him to work as a telemarketer when he was at a very low point in his life while dealing with cocaine abuse, gambling addiction and a relapse from being an alcoholic.

“I take full responsibility for my actions of 11 years ago. There is absolutely no excuse for the disgusting, horrendous crime that I was part of,” Magi wrote in his letter. “It was at this low point in my life that I was lured by Bellini into committing this horrible crime.

“I have taken the time to read the victim impact statements and they are truly heart-wrenching. I am ashamed of my actions and the fact that I was directly responsible for the hurt that I caused some of these families. The thought that someone would do such a thing to my elderly parents enrages me, and causes me to have feelings of extreme shame and remorse for what I did.”

Thirty-nine people who were part of the network were arrested in December 2006 as part of an RCMP investigation dubbed Project Civil. The RCMP said at the time telemarketers called 500 elderly people a week while making false claims that they had won a lottery. If a person was convinced they had won something, the telemarketers would then claim the person had to send a significant amount of money, to cover legal fees or costs, in order to claim their prize. In some cases, victims sent tens of thousands of dollars through wire transfers.

One year after the RCMP made the arrests, only 22 of the 39 ended up being indicted in the U.S. District Court where Magi was sentenced earlier this week. At least 17 of those people have pleaded guilty in the case. Sentences have ranged from the 87 months Bellini received to the three years of probation one Montreal man received in 2010. Two other Montrealers — Walter Wuelfrath and Paul Ifejeh — are scheduled to be sentenced in March.

Read the original story over at The Montreal Gazette.

This story was summarized by Canadian Fraud News Inc.