Two owners of an Arizona business were charged in an indictment unsealed today for overseeing a scheme to forge hundreds of thousands of counterfeit documents containing improperly obtained personal information, primarily relating to senior citizens, which they allegedly sold to their clients, who then allegedly provided this information to telemarketers.
Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Jill Sanborn of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office, Acting Special Agent in Charge Joseph Carrico of the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Gary Loeffert of the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office made the announcement.
Anthony J. Pavone, 44, of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Joseph E. DiPrima, 49, of Penfield, New York, were charged in an indictment filed on April 23, 2019 in the District of Arizona with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, seven counts of identity theft, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, Pavone and DiPrima operated a Phoenix-based business called Hybar Media (Hybar). Hybar specialized in selling “sweepstakes leads,” which are documents listing the phone numbers and personal information of individuals who have responded to mass mailings notifying recipients that they may have won, or were likely to win, expensive prizes and large cash payouts.
The indictment alleges that beginning in approximately 2013, Pavone and DiPrima acquired lists of names and contact information for thousands of people—primarily senior citizens—and used this information to create fake sweepstakes leads, which they then sold to their clients as authentic. The indictment further alleges that Pavone and DiPrima directed a team of employees and associates to write the personal information of the victims onto the counterfeit sweepstakes forms, even though the victims had not agreed to this use, and even though many of the victims had never responded to a sweepstakes mailing. According to the indictment, the counterfeit sweepstakes leads were then sold to Pavone and DiPrima’s clients. Many of these clients then contacted the people named in the leads. Other clients provided the leads to telemarketers, who used them to contact the people named therein.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI is investigating this matter. Trial Attorneys Timothy A. Duree and Philip Trout of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.