This series is about my independent investigation of a local mail fraud ring, its methods, the history of its practitioners, and the methods I've used to investigate it. This happened because the fraud ring tried to scam my firm on an already trying day, thus mildly annoying me. Contemplate that, and conduct yourself accordingly hereabouts. You can find the chapter index here.
It's been a couple of months since I've written about the UST Development mail fraud scheme. Has it gone away? Of course it has not. It's not going to go away until its principals are dead or in jail.
In fact, there have been developments:
First, you might remember that I congratulated North Dakota for being the first state to get a cease and desist order against UST and David Bell. This week Popehat readers alerted me that New York State has taken action:
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a warning to state agencies and businesses to be on the lookout for a scam involving phony invoices. The mailings, from a California-based company called UST or US Telecom or Ust Development, appear to be a bill for $425 worth of telecom maintenance — services that none of the recipients of these letters ever sought, much less obtained.
The invoices have been mailed to several state entities: the DEC, Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation, OGS and — in what might be termed a “tactical error” by the alleged scammers — the Office of the Attorney General.
Protip: mailing fraudulent solicitations to state Attorneys General is not recommended. (Best guess: they are buying mailing lists of state and local agencies. As I've said before, I suspect that they are targeting state and local agencies now because they sense — possibly correctly, possibly not — that government Accounts Payable departments have looser controls than private ones.
Here is the letter the New York Assistant Attorney General sent to David Bell and the UST entities. Note that she asks them to provide an accounting of money received from New York. I'm sure David Bell will get right on that.
So: there are now clearly multiple state investigations. Federal investigations? No comment.
Second, I continue to get tips about invoices received from across the country. I have one dated as late as April 20, 2012 and received in May — which demonstrates that the UST continues relentlessly to pursue the scam even after receiving multiple warnings. That's highly probative of fraudulent intent and will be material in future prosecutions.
Note that UST is still using the La Verne post office box as a return address. La Verne is, in what I am sure is a complete coincidence, the same city where the new UST-successor entity CCG has its address. Though some contact details have changed, they've returned to the -1133 fax number they were using last year. I tried Googling that number again — because Google works in mysterious ways, and in the course of an investigation you can get interesting results by returning to your search-term list and re-Googling everything. Re-Googling that number turned up a page referencing UST Development's participation as a contractor in a construction project, further tying the current mysterious "UST" scam organization to the former UST contractor entities. A tipster pointed out that the same fax number was also used for Pedal Spin Studios — which you may recall is nominally Cynthia Bell's business but, according to tipsters and lawsuit filings, was the beneficiary of money misappropriated by UST. So: UST's fraudulent invoices continue to show the connections among the entities.
Third, David Bell's criminal case — described here — continues at a slow pace. The pre-trial has been continued again until June.
And so the matter continues. The wheels turn slowly, my friends. But rest assured — they turn.
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