The Iowa attorney general's office seized 7,000 pieces of mail last week that it claimed were responses to a fraudulent sweepstakes solicitation campaign conducted by mail and telemarketing.
Acting on an impound order from a county judge, authorities took the mail Thursday from a commercial mail drop in Clive, IA. According to the attorney general, the mailers were sent in response to a mass-mail solicitation aimed at developing a “sucker list” of elderly consumers to be targeted later in a telemarketing fraud scheme.
Richard James Panas of Rock Hill, SC, arranged for the mailers to be brought to the commercial drop in mid-November, the attorney general said. The commercial drop cooperated with the investigation and was not charged.
According to the attorney general, the mailers misled consumers into believing they had won substantial prizes but had to pay “administration” or “pre-processing” fees of $10 or $20. While those solicitations alone are illegal, the goal of the campaign was to develop a list of consumers likely to fall prey to similar telemarketing prize schemes that could cost them up to $5,000, the attorney general said.
A call to Panas' list and direct mail business, R.P. Associates, was not returned Friday. Panas is under federal investigation and is wanted for arrest in Nevada, according to the attorney general.
Among the lists on the rpassociates.com Web sites are several of sweepstakes and prize-promotion participants. One ad for a list titled “Avalanche of Checks” described consumers on the list as “sweepstakes enthusiasts” who responded to an offer of up to $10,000 in prizes guaranteed to all participants and who also sent a $9.95 “acquisition fee to receive a family collection of discount certificates with a fully redeemable value of over $2,000.”