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Telephone Con Artists Catch Victims On The Rebound

March 11, 1994

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Telephone scam victims would do well to heed the old adage ″Once burned, twice shy.″ A successful scam has been catching victims on the rebound, after they’ve already been conned by other fast talkers.

For a fee, companies promise to recover money lost to telemarketing schemes. Then they take the victim’s money and run, authorities said.

Kenneth Peart, 77, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he got cheated out of $12,700 by two Buffalo telemarketing companies last year. Then, he said, he was called by a third firm, Capital Punishers Inc. of the Buffalo suburb of North Tonawanda.

″They told me that if I sent them $600, they’d get back all the money I lost,″ Peart told The Buffalo News in Thursday’s editions. ″They said they knew some bad things happened to me with those other guys, and they were going to help me out.″ Peart said he sent the money and never heard back from Capital Punishers.

″Recovery scams″ - businesses that prey on former telemarketing victims - are under investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick NeMoyer in Buffalo.

″The recovery companies are selling false hope to these people,″ said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Flynn.

″They buy ‘sucker lists’ of people who have lost money to telemarketers, then they call these people up and offer to get their money back to them.″

The companies usually make no effort to recover victims’ money, Flynn said.

Tracy Sadeghian, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau in Buffalo, said her office has received nearly 300 complaints about Capital Punishers.

Anthony Martin and Thomas Pantano, who run Capital Punishers, did not return calls from The Associated Press on Thursday seeking comment.

Former Capital Punishers employee Charlene Birmingham said she called Peart with the offer to recoup his money. She said she later quit because she didn’t like the company’s business practices.

″I tried to get money back for him,″ she said. ″His case was still open when I left there.″

Birmingham now runs Christian Collections, which she said is a legitimate firm that tries to recover victims’ money from fraudulent telemarketers.

While at Capital Punishers, Birmingham said, she recovered about $150,000 for telemarketing victims.

Peart said his case is being investigated by the FBI in Idaho.

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