Pa. AG says 2 men impersonated New Castle, Sharon PDs, scammed customers

Officials said the men sold concert tickets and advertising on behalf of local firefighters unions located in McKeesport, New Castle, Sharon and Butler, Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WKBN) – The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office Thursday announced a $10.8 million penalty on two people who they said faked being police and firemen to help sell tickets and advertising.

Phillip Howells and Martin Vernello, as well as their corporations, Phil’s Productions, LLC and MVP Productions, LLC, were the target of the investigation. The $10.8 million penalty includes restitution for consumers, civil penalties and legal costs.

The AG’s office said that the pair will be barred from soliciting charitable donations in Pennsylvania until the penalty is paid in full.

According to legal filings in the case, the defendants operated commercial telemarketing firms based in Ohio that sold concert tickets and advertising on behalf of local firefighters unions located in McKeesport, New Castle, Sharon and Butler.

Telemarketers would call consumers and solicit the sale of tickets to the concerts claiming proceeds would benefit the firefighters unions and local fire prevention efforts. However, telemarketers made a series of misrepresentations.

Court officials said that telemarketers led consumers to believe they were firefighters or police officers when they were not and made misrepresentations about how much they were paid.

Other misrepresentations included telemarketers erroneously stating that 100 percent of the proceeds that came from donations went to charitable efforts, such as scholarships for children pursuing law enforcement and food banks, according to a press release from the AG’s office, and that charitable contributions would allow handicapped children to attend concerts for free.

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