Darien Man Charged with Defrauding Investor in Pay Phone Scheme

Note: this press release was issued by the Division of Criminal Justice
and not by the Department of Banking. For further information, 
please contact the Division of Criminal Justice at (860) 258-5800.

January 28, 2005  -

Chief State's Attorney Christopher L. Morano announced today the arrest of a Darien man charged with larceny and securities violations for investments he sold in the pay telephone industry.

JAMES GARDNER, age 40, of 137 Hollow Tree Ridge Road, Darien, is accused of defrauding a 70-year-old victim of $40,000 she invested in pay phones between May of 1999 and June 2000.

Mr. Gardner was charged with three counts each of Larceny in the Second Degree, Prohibited Activities regarding the Offer, Sale or Purchase of any Security, and Required Registration of Security Prior to Offer or Sale. If convicted of all counts, Mr. Gardner faces a maximum possible sentence of 66 years incarceration.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Mr. Gardner, an insurance agent and longtime family friend of the victim, solicited an investment in 1999 from the victim for the sale, operation, management and servicing of pay telephones in the United States.

The warrant alleges that the victim was promised a rate of return on her investment of 14 percent and a share of the profits from the telephones.

At the end of three years, the victim was to have recouped her entire investment. The victim invested $40,000 for the purchase of eight pay phones and received approximately $5,700 in income from the phones between May 1999 and June 2000, the warrant alleges.

On January 25, 2002, the State of Connecticut Department of Banking issued a Cease and Desist Order against Alpha Telecom, Inc. and American Telecommunications Company, Inc., two companies that Mr. Gardner represented to the victim as providers of the pay phones. The Department's order accused the Oregon-based companies of failing to register to sell securities in Connecticut as required by law.

The warrant further states that the victim brought suit against Mr. Gardner in Superior Court and received a judgment requiring him to pay her $57,323 in restitution. Mr. Gardner has made none of the payments required by the court, the warrant states.

Mr. Gardner was arraigned today in Stamford Superior Court, G.A. No. 1. Bond was set at $10,000. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 8, 2005.

The case is being prosecuted by the Elder Abuse Unit of the Elder Services Bureau of the Chief State's Attorney's Rocky Hill office.

The charges against Mr. Gardner are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.