Clarion woman sentenced in 'business opportunity' scam
By Brian Bowling
Published: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 3:30 p.m.
A Clarion woman arrested in a national “business opportunity” fraud sweep will spend one year and one day in prison, a Pittsburgh federal judge ruled on Friday.
Pearl Pastilock, 50, pleaded guilty in June to conspiring with L.J. Gubitosa Inc., a Colorado firm that bilked would-be business owners out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Pastilock posed as a successful owner of an energy candy vending machine franchise to persuade others to invest in the unprofitable franchises, prosecutors say.
“I'm sorry,” Pastilock told U.S. District Judge David Cercone. “And I'll never let this happen again, ever.”
Cercone also sentenced Pastilock to three years of probation and ordered her to pay a share of the $215,000 restitution tied to her conduct.
The company did business as American Vending Systems and promised investors they could make a living off of the profits of vending machines selling energy candy, prosecutors say.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Marketa Sims said Pastilock, who owned and operated an ice cream truck, responded to an ad in a magazine and got roped in as the person calling prospects to encourage them to invest their money.
She argued that Pastilock deserved probation because she immediately cooperated with U.S. Postal Service inspectors who knocked on her door in 2009 and helped them develop the evidence to convict the principal players in Colorado and Texas.
“She made numerous recorded phone calls,” she said.
Pastilock made about $25,000 from the scam during three years, Sims said.
Patrick Runkle, a trial lawyer for the Justice Department's Consumer Protection Branch, agreed that Pastilock cooperated, but said she used aliases and lied to persuade 200 to 250 people to invest thousands of dollars in the scam, in some cases their life savings.
“That $25,000 represents a lot of harm to the public,” he said.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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