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Three guilty of mail fraud get prison time

July 16, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Three men who bilked thousands of people out of millions of dollars in schemes operated from Hagerstown were sentenced to prison in Baltimore Thursday.

John Thomas Polk, 39, of Dallas, was sentenced to 51 months in prison without parole by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Motz, according to Hagerstown FBI Agent Barry O'Neill, who testified at the hearing.

He also was ordered to pay $2 million in restitution and a $250,000 fine, O'Neill said.

David C. Bowen, 36, also of Dallas, was sentenced to 18 months in prison without parole and ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution, O'Neill said.

Matthew F. Foulger, 31, of Arizona, received a 30-month sentence without parole. There was no order for restitution or fines since Foulger is in bankruptcy, O'Neill said.

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Still awaiting sentencing is Steven Clements, 45, of Humble, Texas.

All had pleaded guilty to one count each of mail fraud, according to Lynne A. Battaglia, U.S. attorney for Maryland.

The men operated two companies in Hagerstown.

Peak Performance Institute and its successor company, Success Achievement Systems, operated in three different locations between 1992 and 1996, according to O'Neill, a special agent with the FBI who worked on the case for two years.

The addresses of the companies were 19723 Leitersburg Pike, 1710 Underpass Way and 91 Western Maryland Parkway.

They had two ways of getting people's money, O'Neill said. They would contact people by direct mail or through infomercials on television.

Once the person expressed interest, they would be invited to a free seminar where they would be pitched to spend $499 to $599 for a program called "Inside Secrets to Real Estate and Government Auctions."

Purchase of the program entitled the consumer to use "John Polk's money" or "Matthew Foulger's money" in joint ventures to purchase items at government auctions or to fund real estate purchases, O'Neill said.

A second come-on to buy another $500 program called "Elite Performer" entitled the consumer to embark on joint ventures with the two companies on approved commercial real estate programs supposedly worth more than $150,000, according to the indictments.

Polk and Foulger never did joint ventures with their own money, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

The infomercials and the mailings were misleading, talking about the successes of people picked at random who turned out to be friends or relatives of Foulger or Polk.

O'Neill said the victims numbered in excess of 17,000 people, who invested more than $20 million in the programs.

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