‘Gold Coast’ Crackdown
Orange County has long had the dubious nickname of “the gold coast of phone fraud.” This week brought encouraging news that the battle against scams is producing some victories.
Two Orange County men pleaded guilty in separate cases of illegal telemarketing to swindling senior citizens across the country out of a total of $188,000. One faces a maximum prison sentence of 60 years, plus a $1-million fine. The other could be sentenced to 30 years and be fined $500,000.
Eight telephone fraud operations have been shut down since a task force that includes Orange County Sheriff’s Department and FBI agents began cracking down in January. Raiders have seized $300,000 in fraudulently obtained funds.
Fraud against senior citizens rightly has been receiving increasing attention from law enforcement authorities in recent years. Experts say many victims live on their own and had no friend or relative to warn them against a “can’t miss” investment. Some were lonely and so happy to hear a voice on the telephone they kept listening until they got hooked.
As for why Orange County is home to so many boiler rooms--people at banks of telephones dialing across the country--authorities say crooks like the weather as much as honest folks and that the county’s large, transient population makes it easy to fold up shop quickly and disappear.
Combining the efforts of federal and local investigators makes sense: The federal branch can apply lessons learned in other states and the Orange County branch can use its knowledge of how things work here and where to find the suspects. The crackdown deserves continued success.