Four plead guilty in telemarketing fraud case

ST. LOUIS – A 37-year-old Brentwood man is one of four people to plead guilty in federal court in connection with a telemarketing scam that targeted the elderly, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Carrie Costantin said.

According to prosecutors, a Phoenix, Arizona-based telemarketing company sold phony business opportunities to elderly clients as part of a scheme spanning the United States and into Canada. They operated under multiple business names and entities while engaging in the scheme, including Smart Business Pros LLC, based in Warson Woods, Missouri.

All told, the scam generated more than $20 million in sales.

In October 2016, prosecutors indicted nine people who live in the Phoenix area. In February 2017, an additional 10 people were indicted; those defendants live in Missouri, Kansas, Nevada, and the Phoenix area. One more person from Phoenix was indicted in July 2017.

One of those Missouri defendants, identified as Philip Hale, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering on August 15.

Three accused co-conspirators pleaded guilty to other various charges. They were identified as 39-year-old Anthony Swiantek of Topeka, Kansas, 35-year-old Jennifer Hansen of Phoenix, and 37-year-old John Balleweg of Phoenix.

If convicted, Hale faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine.