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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Bogus Lawyers Target Inmates

Updated: Friday, January 30 2015, 09:35 AM EST
CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- A pair of bogus lawyers target inmates' families with promises of freedom.

The victims were desperate because they were trying to help their family members who were behind bars.

The thieves who posed as lawyers promised freedom for criminals serving time.  But instead they defrauded millions from the prisoners family members.  This scam comes with an important lesson. 

US Postal Inspector Kimberly Orlando said, "Neither one of these suspects have a college education and would tell the victims that they were attorneys."

John Wilson and Larry Zeka used fake names and pretended to be lawyers who could help the families of prison inmates.  They claimed they could overturn or at least reduce the length of prison sentences.

"They went so far as to tell people they worked the OJ Simpson case, they worked the Scott Peterson case. They were just very over the top and be very persuasive."

Desperate families played right into their hands.  When they did, the con men would ask for somewhere between 600 to 1,200 dollars to simply "look" at the case.

"At the height, he was receiving several hundred envelopes a week at this business location."

Then, they would tell victims it was a good case and ask for more money.

"Once they sent in that 'attorney retainer fee' he cut off all communication."

The men never did anything for the money they received.

"He defrauded over 2,000 victims of over two million dollars just in that five years."

Postal Inspectors started tracking this case after receiving complaints.  They raided their homes and offices.  After removing papers and computers - inspectors got full confessions and learned all about the operation.

"They were targeting people who didn't have access to a computer, didn't have the knowledge of how to research things like that and basically verify their background."

Authorities say both men were taking in the money and spending it all on personal items.

"He was living the high life while these people could barely put food on their table, it's disgusting."

Victims were devastated.

"It was hard enough for them to watch their son or whomever to go away to prison and then they have this belief that they are getting out."

Inspectors say it is so important to do your homework before contracting with anyone offering their services.

"If anyone had done any research with the BBB these guys had horrible ranking with the BBB."

John Wilson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in this scam and was ordered to pay back $2 million dollars taken from victims.  Larry Zeka also pleaded guilty in the scam and is awaiting sentencing.

Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Bogus Lawyers Target Inmates

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