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Joseph Arsenault, an American national and resident of New York, has been arrested in Bangkok for his involvement in a telemarketing scam, which netted fraudsters more than US$20 million from 290 victims in the US and Canada.
Arsenault, who was charged with rape and drug possession in 2007 and previously had a failed career as an actor, was one of 16 individuals involved in the scam to be charged in the United States in November 2014.
The scam involved the gang making unsolicited calls to addresses across 46 states in the US and in Canada, where they claimed they were able to be able to sell property located in Detroit at knockdown prices, which could then be resold to foreign investors and venture capitalists for big profits.
However, despite victims being led to believe that the purchase of property was a profitable way of buying and flipping homes in Detroit, the whole thing was a scam. There were no profits and each property purchased was transferred to a holding company controlled by the fraudsters. Some victims went onto ‘invest’ in multiple homes with the fraudsters.
The FBI has described how gang members frequently changed their names to avoid arrest and being tracked down by people who had invested in the property scam.
In November the gang were charged with operating a fraudulent telemarketing scheme, along with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
Speaking of the scam, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said:
“This nationwide telemarketing fraud not only caused millions of dollars in losses to victims of the scheme, but it also contributed to blight in Detroit neighborhoods.
“Thousands of homes were left to fall into decay as a result of these individuals using Detroit real estate as a commodity to accomplish their fraud.”
Special Agent Paul M. Abbate also commented on the case saying: “The perpetrators in this case stole millions of dollars from hundreds of victims.
“However, they did more than steal money—their greed and fraud compounded the proliferation of vacant homes left for ruin in far too many Detroit neighborhoods. The FBI is committed to rooting out and bringing to justice those who would commit crimes of this nature and act against the interests of our communities.”
Another member of the gang, Gregory Swarn fled to Thailand using a fake passport shortly after being charged.
However, the FBI, along with the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) located Swarn in Thailand last year and were able to deport him back to the United States.
At the time of his arrest, Swarn was on the DSS Most Wanted List.
Another member of the gang, and a known associate of Swarm, is Erez Arsoni, who is also thought to have fled overseas, however, it is not known if he is in Thailand currently.