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7 INDICTED IN TELEMARKETING SCHEME.

Byline: Lisa Van Proyen Daily News Staff Writer

A federal grand jury indicted seven men on mail fraud charges tied to a multimillion-dollar telemarketing scheme with Chris Rawlings, the Woodland Hills man killed after being kidnapped from his home last month, officials announced Monday.

The 19-count indictment charges that Peter Aro, John Dickens, Timothy Griffieth, Vincent Rabiola, John Watson, Gerald Whiteford and Michael Wineman operated a scheme to defraud mostly elderly victims who thought they were investing in unreleased Beatles and Marvin Gaye recordings.

``This is part of our continuing efforts to shut down fraudulent telemarketers. We are committed to prosecuting unscrupulous businessmen who prey on this nation's elderly by using the telenes,'' said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Two of the suspects were arrested Monday: Rabiola, 29, of Woodland Hills and Wineman, 57, of Tarzana, said Assistant United States Attorney Brent Whittlesey.

Aro is the only one named who remains at large, federal officials said.

The indictment alleges that salesmen from a company called WRI Holdings Inc., a British West Indies corporation, misled investors into thinking they would receive large returns.

In fact, about 80 percent of the investor's funds went toward sales commissions or promoters of the venture that operated out of boiler rooms in Encino and Tarzana, officials said.

The indictment reads in part: ``The defendants represented to victims of their fraudulent scheme . . . that purchasers of WRIH's preferred stock could expect to receive a return of approximately four times their investment.''

Within only nine months in 1998, victims paid out $1.1 million to WRI Holdings.

In addition to mail fraud, Aro, Watson and Dickens are charged with 11 counts of money laundering, Whittlesey said.

All of the suspects are scheduled for arraignment in federal Monday.

The case was investigated by the Boilerroom Apprehension Team, which consists of FBI agents and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles police continued searching for suspects in the killing of Rawlings, who was under federal investigation when he was kidnapped from his Woodland Hills home Feb. 8. Two men stuffed him in the trunk of his leased Bentley luxury car before raiding his home.

Police later chased the suspects in the Bentley before they crashed on Tampa Avenue in Tarzana. Rawlings was thrown from the trunk and died two days later.

LAPD Detective Rick Swanston on Monday maintained that Rawlings' telemarketing problems were likely not related to his attack.

``We haven't discounted it, but we don't think it's connected,'' he said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 2, 1999
Words:421
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