ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Rob Lopicola went from forecasting the weather for a Florida TV station to the back of a squad car leaving the Federal courthouse in East St. Louis.
Lopicola, along with more than a dozen others, is accused of running a timeshare resale rip-off, convincing unsuspecting people that they had a buyer for their timeshare, charging a $1,000 fee, then delivering nothing. Lopicola was recently sentenced for his role in the scam.
The scheme work was done from a boiler room in Florida, prosecutors say. Victims were spread out across the country, at least 47 of them live in the St. Louis area, but the scheme went further than that.
“In this one case there are approximately 7,000 victims nationwide,” said U.S. Attorney for Southern Illinois Steve Wigginton. The scheme took in around $14 million. Lopicola personally pocketed $154,000.
This is not the first time News 4 has investigated timeshare scams that ended up being prosecuted in federal court in Southern Illinois.
Last February, News 4's Chris Nagus went looking for the operators of another timeshare rip-off in Las Vegas. That multi-million dollar fraud also targeted victims in Southern Illinois.
Wigginton prosecuted the man behind the scam, Michael Patrick Sullivan, saying he was running the scheme from a seedy looking strip mall near the Vegas strip. Wigginton's office is now busting four different types of timeshare schemes. None of the people running those schemes are based in Southern Illinois, but if even one victim is in Southern Illinois, Wigginton can prosecute.
“So we bring these fraudsters to Illinois to answer for their illegal activities,” Wigginton said.
Lopicola is just the latest alleged criminal on the docket. He was already serving prison time in Florida for sex crimes with minors. He will also serve three more years for the time share fraud scheme.