2009-11-05 / Local & State

Telemarketer Admits Role In Big Internet Scam

former telemarketing company official admitted Friday that he scammed small businesses out of millions of dollars by duping them into paying for Internet services without their consent.

Neal Saferstein, 36, of Mount Laurel, N.J., pleaded guilty Friday to mail fraud and tax-evasion charges.

His company, GoInternet, defrauded up to 400,000 small businesses and individuals out of as much as $75 million from 2001 to 2004, prosecutors said. They tricked customers into receiving information packets that triggered charges of about $30 a month unless the recipient canceled the service.

The packets were designed to look like junk mail and were often tossed unopened, authorities said.

GoInternet, in business from 1997 to 2004, was the target of a civil suit by the Federal Trade Commission and was accused by several states of violating donot call lists. The FTC case led to a $58 million judgment against Saferstein and GoInternet.

At its peak, the company employed 1,000 telemarketers in three locations where workers cold-called small businesses, churches and individuals nationwide offering to create and host Web sites or advertising.

Defense lawyer Carl Poplar did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

Saferstein’s trial had been set to start Monday. He remains free on bond pending his sentencing in February and faces up to 46 years in prison.

Co-defedant Tyrone Barr, a GoInternet vice president, and Billy Light, chief information officer, were also named in the 2007 federal indictment. Barr pleaded guilty to wire fraud and Light to conspiracy to commit perjury. They are also awaiting sentencing. Barr could get up to 20 years and Light up to 5 years, prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, Saferstein used GoInternet funds as a personal bank account and failed to report more than $1.7 million in income from 2000 to 2003.

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