Man pleads guilty in dues scam
November 11, 2014
Prosecutors want to hear from ADA members who may have been victims of a fraud scam asking them to send money for Association dues.
On Nov. 6, Darren Stokes, of Stoughton, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court to eight counts of wire fraud and seven counts of mail fraud for faxing fake membership dues invoices and membership applications to businesses across the country, including to ADA members. The indictment states that Stokes conducted this scam from 2008 to 2012 by posing as someone from a business or trade association seeking payment for annual dues or for inclusion in an association directory.
The fraudulent scheme involving ADA invoices occurred over the New Year’s holiday in 2012. Within hours of ADA staff becoming aware of the fraud on Jan. 3, 2012, an alert was sent to member and nonmember dentists with an email address in the Association database.
ADA staff also notified leadership and staff at state and local dental societies, recognized specialty organizations and other organizations and individuals within the dental community. Two days later, the ADA’s legal team obtained a court order from the Boston federal court seizing the contents of the post office box identified in the phony invoices and confiscating mail addressed to that box.
Stokes’ faxed invoices asked for dues payment ranging from $575 to $895. He induced hundreds of business to send checks to Massachusetts mailing addresses and post office boxes he controlled, according to the indictment, which said Stokes also targeted members of the National Association of Manufacturers, Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association, American Trucking Association, Associated General Contractors of America and the National Hospital Association.
Stokes cashed the checks he received, totaling more than $150,000, at a check cashing service, the indictment states. No ADA members have reported to have lost money because of the scam.
The prosecutors handling the case are trying to identify businesses that were victims. Any ADA member who received an invoice and mailed a check to Massachusetts between 2008-12 and the check was either cashed or a stop payment was placed on it, is urged to email their contact information to Jessica.Pooler@usadoj.gov by Dec. 1.
The ADA has a number of resources for members on how to avoid falling victim to a scam on its Center for Professional Success website, Success.ADA.org. Visit the website and search for the following articles: “How to Steer Clear of Telemarketing Scams;” “The ADA Guide to Protecting Your Dental Practice From Fraud;” and “Tips to Safeguard Your Practice from Computer Hackers.”
The ADA legal department also offers “How to Avoid Becoming Victim to a Sales Scam,” on ADA.org.