Deputies with the Howell County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Office arrested Michael Sweigart last night. Several anonymous tips to the Attorney General’s Office led officers to a home in West Plains, Missouri, where Sweigart went into custody without incident. He had been on the run for more than two months.
“Wednesday’s arrest makes the 18th and final arrest in connection to this ongoing investigation,” said Attorney General DeWine. “We appreciate the teamwork between our Ohio officers and the officers across the country who all helped put each suspect in jail.”
The majority of the 18 suspects were arrested in Florida, while officers found others in Ohio, Indiana, New York, and now Missouri.
According to indictments returned in June, the suspects operated a criminal enterprise of at least three different companies targeting victims nationwide who owned inexpensive, vacant land throughout the United States. Landowners were fed a series of lies over the phone and were led to believe that their land was worth up to 15 times its assessed value. They were told they had to pay fees of $500 to nearly $16,000 to guarantee the sale of their land.
The enterprise was founded in Ohio in 2007 and operated from many locations, including Troy, Huber Heights, and Vandalia. Later, the operation opened new branches in the Tampa, Fla., area.
The 18 suspects were indicted on June 20th for charges including Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activities; Conspiracy; Aggravated Theft of $1.5 million or more; Telecommunications Fraud; Money Laundering; and Telemarketing Fraud. If convicted, the ringleaders face charges that can carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 37 and a half years.
Sweigart is facing a maximum of 24.5 years in prison for his alleged role in the crimes. He is currently awaiting extradition back to Ohio to face charges. Two other suspects have pleaded guilty in the case, and trial dates for several others have been scheduled.
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