(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that two more members of a multi-state telemarketing ring, including its alleged ringleader, have been taken into custody by authorities in Ohio and Florida. Only two of the 18 indicted suspects remain at large.
“I am pleased the ringleader of a scam that targeted vulnerable senior citizens is in custody and will face his day in court,” DeWine said. “We are sending a message to con artists across this country. If you commit fraud in Ohio or upon Ohioans, law enforcement and prosecutors will not be far behind.”
The alleged ringleader, Theodore S. Thomas, 32, of Dunedin, Florida, was arrested by Pinellas Park Police in Florida in the early morning of Sunday, July 8th. Thomas, who had been travelling in Florida under an alias, identified himself to police while receiving medical treatment in an ambulance outside a motel. Samuel I. Acevedo, 31, of Madison Heights, Michigan, turned himself into authorities at the Miami County Jail this morning.
Thomas is currently awaiting extradition proceedings. Acevedo will be arraigned at 2:00 p.m. today in Miami County.
The suspects operated a criminal enterprise of at least three different companies that targeted victims nationwide who owned inexpensive, vacant land throughout the U.S., according to the indictment returned Tuesday. Landowners were fed a series of lies over the phone and led to believe their land was worth up to 15 times its assessed value. They were told that they had to pay fees of $500 to almost $16,000 to guarantee the sale of their land. The enterprise was founded in Ohio in 2007 and operated from many locations, including Troy, Huber Heights, and Vandalia. Later, the operation opened new branches in the Tampa, Fla., area.
The 18 suspects were indicted on June 20th for charges including Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activities; Conspiracy; Aggravated Theft of $1.5 million or more; Telecommunications Fraud; Money Laundering; and Telemarketing Fraud. If convicted, the ringleaders face charges that can carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 37 and a half years.
Two indicted suspects from the telemarketing ring remain at large: Robert B. “Ben” Salafia, 27, of Clearwater, Florida, and Michael Sweigart, 55, of St. Petersburg, Florida. Although both suspects are residents of Florida, anyone with information on the whereabouts of Salafia and Sweigart should contact the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 1-855-BCI-OHIO. Vital statistics regarding Salafia and Sweigart are also available below.
Theodore S. Thomas (JPEG)
Samuel I. Acevedo (JPEG)
Ben Salafia (JPEG)
Michael Sweigart (JPEG)
At Large Suspect Vital Information
Suspect Name: Robert Benjamin Salafia
Alias: Ben Salafia
Last Known Address: 2037 Edgewater Drive, Apt. #104, Clearwater, Florida
Date of Birth: March 26, 1985
Weight: 200 pounds
Suspect Name: Michael Eugene Sweigart
Last Known Address: 3612 Burlington Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida
Date of Birth: June 16, 1957