Pinellas-Based Telemarketing Scam Was Far Reaching

How did a Clearwater man and others in Florida and Ohio allegedly bilk elderly people across the country out of millions of dollars?

A recent Tampa Bay Times story outlines a far-reaching telemarketing scam that was based out of a Dunedin home and allegedly stole millions of dollars from elderly people across the country.

Ted Thomas and his wife, Kara, are accused of . The Times details how neighbors' suspicions were aroused when Ted Thomas reportedly once dropped a briefcase full of stacks of cash in the driveway.

Thomas, 32, is among 18 people in Florida and Ohio accused of operating three companies that targeted property owners of inexpensive, vacant land throughout the U.S.

Telemarketers led property owners to believe that their land was worth up to 15 times its assessed value, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. The property owners were then told they had to pay fees ranging from $500 to nearly $16,000 to guarantee the sale of their land, officials said.

Thomas was arrested by Pinellas Park Police in July. Lawyers for Ted and Kara Thomas maintain their innocence, the Times reports.

Among the others accused in the scam:  Robert B. "Ben" Salafia, 27, of Clearwater; Stephen T. Grannan, 56, of Ozona; Justin K. Jones, 45, of Ozona; Ashley J. Green, 25, of Largo; Alton L. Kessler, 36, of Indian Rocks Beach; Michael E. Sweigart, 55, of St. Petersburg; Christopher A. Fregapane, 27, of Pinellas Park; Michael D. Northcutt Jr., 28, of St. Petersburg; Michael D. Perry, 25, of Pinellas Park; and Quincy Q. Austin, 26, of St. Petersburg.

Read more in the Times' in-depth story.

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