An alleged con artist who’d escaped to Greece is accused of making $10 million pretending his company was the Yellow Pages, and billing businesses for "unpaid invoices" that never actually existed.
The concept of the “Yellow Pages” is so old that many of you readers may not remember that every household used to have that thick, yellow paperback book to look up phone numbers for everything from ordering a pizza to buying a diamond wedding ring. It was before the internet, it was all we had! But according to a U.S. Department of Justice announcement on Tuesday, a Canadian/Lebanese citizen named Nemr Hallak was just extradited from Greece to San Francisco to face charges for sending businesses bogus Yellow Pages invoices, for Yellow Pages that did not even exist.
Hallak reportedly made more than $10 million with this scheme.
The US Attorney's Office Northern California District charges that “between January 2010 and August 2014, Hallak and others operated a ‘business directory’ telemarketing scam. Using a variety of means, including false and misleading cold calls and bogus invoices, Hallak and his co-defendants deceived churches, doctors’ offices, non-profits, mom-and-pop stores, and small businesses into paying for business directory services they neither ordered nor received.”
Per the feds, the bogus invoices ranged anywhere from $400 to $1,800. And apparently many businesses just paid the invoices to make the so-called “bill collector” go away. But it worked so many times that Hallak and his co-conspirators apparently netted $10.8 million over a four-year period.
Hallak was first indicted for the crime way back in 2016, which may explain why he bolted for Greece. He was arrested in Greece on an Interpol Red Notice, and extradited back to SF, where he had his first court appearance Monday.
He’s charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Hallak is scheduled to appear again in an SF federal courthouse on December 21.
Image: Businessman searching for something in yellow pages through indexes (Getty Images)