An Oldsmar man has been charged with scamming more than $12-million from tens of thousands of people who signed up for what authorities say was a bogus credit card offer.
A federal grand jury in East St. Louis, Ill., indicted Peter Porcelli II on Thursday on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.
Authorities say Porcelli, 55, and others who were not named in the indictment offered consumers a MasterCard credit card for a fee ranging from $160 to $500. Those charged the fee were sent offers that usually were already available for free to the public, along with an "acceptance form" for what amounted to a prepaid card, which cost consumers an extra $15.
Authorities say Porcelli defrauded or tried to dupe at least 165,000 Americans, many with poor credit histories.
The indictment comes about 4-1/2 years after the Federal Trade Commission shut down Porcelli's Largo business, Bay Area Business Council, or BABC. In its heyday in 2001 and 2002, BABC was one of the most complained about companies in the nation, FTC officials said at the time.
Porcelli, who owned the Tampa Bay Smokers, a professional fast-pitch softball team, did not return a call seeking comment on his indictment. His federal arraignment in Illinois has been set for April 5.
The U.S. government alleges that Porcelli carried out the scam through several Florida-based companies beginning in June 2001, using call centers in several states and outside the United States.
The alleged scam ended when the Federal Trade Commission sued Porcelli and others in August 2002. A federal judge later barred Porcelli and other defendants from telemarketing and selling credit-related products, and ordered them to pay more than $12-million in restitution.
Porcelli, who filed for bankruptcy in 2003, has insisted in a previous court affidavit that he did nothing wrong, the St. Petersburg Times has reported.
The most serious of the 19 counts Porcelli is charged with carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence, and each count is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000.
Information from Times files was used in this report.