Monkton man indicted in yearbook scheme

April 21, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

A Baltimore County man was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges that he ran a scheme to overcharge students in Maryland for college and high school yearbooks.

Joseph M. Wenzl, 39, of Monkton was indicted on 15 charges of wire and mail fraud. He is accused of pocketing more than $700,000 in excessive fees for the yearbooks, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Wenzl, a regional sales representative for Texas-based Taylor Publishing Co., brokered deals with the publisher to sell yearbooks to schools for lower-than-usual prices. He then charged the schools a much higher price for the books, using fake invoices and a personal post office box, and kept the additional money, prosecutors said. The alleged thefts occurred between October 1998 and January 2003.

The Naval Academy in Annapolis was one of several schools in Maryland and Washington targeted in the scheme. Wenzl also defrauded customers at a Prince George's County high school and at several schools in Washington, including George Washington and Howard universities, prosecutors said.

Officials at the schools did not return phone calls yesterday.

Wenzl directed the schools to send their payments to Campus Creations Inc. in Towson, which he controlled, prosecutors said. The schools mailed their checks paying higher amounts that he designated with fraudulent invoices to Campus Creations, prosecutors said. After depositing the checks in a personal bank account, Wenzl mailed checks to Taylor Publishing that matched the discounted prices, they said.

Wenzl could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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