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13 arrested after 5-year investigation of alleged Phoenix telemarketing scam

PHOENIX — Thirteen people have been arrested after a five-year investigation into an alleged telemarketing scam that impacted thousands of victims, the Phoenix Police Department announced Wednesday.

The department worked with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Arizona Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission on the case.

More than 9,000 victims all over the country lost a total of $40 million, according to police.

The investigation began when a 75-year-old woman in Iowa lost thousands of dollars after someone purporting to work for a company called WyzeMoney convinced her to invest money with the promise of no risk.

The allegedly fraudulent company, which changed names several times, set up call centers throughout Maricopa County. Workers took down victims’ credit card numbers and promised them thousands of dollars in return.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at a press conference that all victims were older than 65, and some had disabilities.

“Many of these folks were cheated out of their retirement savings and suffered great financial loss,” she said.

Authorities arrested Susan Rodgriguez, Amanda Dahlstrom, Carla Jewell, David Johnson, Eric Larion, Dorian Levine, Jessica Adams, John McClure, Christopher Lynn, Karla Finocchio, Brandon Randis, Zachary Costa and Dale Burney last month.

Deputy Chief Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said the investigation took so long because prosecutors had to look through hundreds of thousands of document pages to build their case.

She said it’s “important for us as a community to take a stand” against scams that target the elderly and disabled.

“These people targeted the most vulnerable of our society, people who have life savings at stake, people who can’t just go back to work and make up for what they lost,” she said.

The suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit fraudulent schemes, money laundering, theft from a vulnerable adult, illegal control of an enterprise and unlawful telephone solicitation.

Police said more arrests are possible.

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