Man Who Fled To Philippines After Bizop Scam Was Exposed By Postal Inspectors Sentenced To 125 Months In Federal Prison; Robert Nicol Bilked More Than $5 Million In Utah-Based Fraud Ventures

A man who ran a Utah-based fraud scheme has been sentenced by a federal judge in Florida to 125 months behind bars.

Robert Nicol initially fled to a remote section of the Philippines after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service executed a search warrant in an investigation of Gold Star Vending Inc. in 2007. But authorities tracked him down, and the Philippine government deported Nicol to the United States in 2010 to face justice, federal prosecutors said.

“This defendant used his business opportunity scam to target those trying to make an honest living, and then fled to the Philippines when his fraud was discovered,” said Tony West, assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. “As this stiff sentence demonstrates, we will see to it that fraudsters who cheat others to make a quick buck cannot escape justice.”

In addition to sentencing Nicol to more than 10 years in prison, U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz ordered him to pay more than $5.2 million in restitution to customers he scammed through Gold Star Vending and an entity known as Table Top Vending Inc.

Customers believed they were buying everything they needed to run coin-operated games businesses successfully in places such as restaurants, but Nicol had lined up shills to sing the praises of the venture and purchasers lost millions of dollars, prosecutors said.

“Fraudsters can run but they cannot hide,” said Henry Gutierrez, Miami’s U.S. Postal Inspector in charge. “Robert Nicol joins a growing number of business opportunity defendants the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with prosecutors, have brought to justice after being apprehended in other countries.”

More than 100 bizop fraudsters in South Florida have been convicted and sentenced in recent years, noted U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, the Miami region’s top federal prosecutor.

“Fraudulent telemarketers must realize that all financial fraud will be prosecuted vigorously,” Ferrer said.

Utah also has been plagued by fraud schemes, perhaps especially investment-fraud and Ponzi schemes with a companion element of affinity fraud. The FBI said last year that various recent scams in the state had cost residents an estimated $1.4 billion and that the agency had identified at least 370 “potential perpetrators.”

Two others implicated in Nicol’s Utah-based vending scam also were sentenced to hefty terms in federal prison.

Seth Lehrenbaum, who provided shilling services for Nichol, received a sentence of 78 months. Meanwhile, Charles Nicol, Robert Nicol’s son and a pitchman for the scam, received a sentence of 41 months.

In a separate case, the Salt Lake Tribune reported yesterday that Utah resident Wayne R. Ogden, who’d been charged, convicted,  jailed and paroled in a fraud scheme in the 1990s involving $7 million, now has been charged in an alleged $29 million caper.

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