2 deny bilking consumers of $20 million via Md. firm

November 14, 1998|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Two Texas men accused of participating in a scheme to defraud consumers of $20 million through a Hagerstown company pleaded not guilty yesterday to federal mail and wire fraud charges.

John T. Polk, 38, and David C. Bowen, 36, declined to comment on the charges after their arraignment in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Bowen faces 12 counts of fraud; Polk faces eight counts.

A federal grand jury in Baltimore indicted the pair and two others last month for mail and wire fraud arising from the operation of Peak Performance Institute and its successor company, Success Achievement Systems.

Steven Clements, 45, and Matthew F. Foulger, 31, the two others accused, are to be arraigned later this month.

Federal prosecutors say the four men misled 17,000 consumers when they peddled "inside secrets," produced "home business infomercials" and arranged "elite performer" seminars through the companies.

The indictment alleges that the four sent misleading direct-mail advertising and aired false infomercials to boost attendance at the free seminars.

Seminar "speakers including Polk, Bowen, Clements and Foulger persuaded consumers to buy -- for $499 to $599 -- a program entitled 'Inside Secrets to Real Estate and Government Auctions,' " it said.

The infomercials failed to disclose that many of the people appearing in them "were friends, relatives, associates or employees" of Polk and Foulger, the indictment alleges.

The enterprise left victims in Maryland, Wisconsin, Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington state, Ohio, California, New Hampshire, Illinois, Georgia, Nebraska and Florida, prosecutors said.

Pub Date: 11/14/98

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