A Twin Cities man’s telemarketing company collected more than $10 million by having employees make cold calls to thousands of people and dupe them into thinking they were renewing or buying new magazine subscriptions, according to federal charges filed this week.
Wayne R. Dahl Jr., 50, of Fridley, was charged Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Minneapolis with four counts of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud in connection with a scheme run out of Chaska that spanned several years and totaled more than 13,000 victims in Minnesota and many other states across the country.
“Dahl knew that many of the consumers on these lists were elderly and susceptible to deceptive sales tactics,” the federal indictment read.
He told his callers to “bulldoze through the final portion of the call in order to make the ‘sale,’ ” the indictment noted, “even when consumers were confused and did not realize they were signing up for new magazine subscription packages.”
Dahl and his Chaska company, Your Magazine Service Inc., were sued in 2016 by the state attorney general’s office, which alleged that among the victims was an 87-year-old blind woman who was signed up for magazines after she repeatedly said she couldn’t read them.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, Dahl declined to comment. His attorney, Peter Wold, would say only that his client was charged by summons and will voluntarily surrender to authorities when required.
A Carver County judge ruled last year against Dahl and his company for $20 million each and shut down the operation, but the state has yet to collect any of the money.
“We are attempting to locate his money,” Ben Wogsland, spokesman for Attorney General Lori Swanson, said Wednesday.
“Obviously, the money is gone” and is unlikely to ever be recouped, Wogsland added.
Federal and state authorities have so far declined to say where the money went. Dahl moved out of a $700,000 home in Eden Prairie to West Palm Beach, Fla., a few months after the state requested records and information in connection with its civil investigation.
In response to Dahl being charged Tuesday, Swanson said, “It’s troubling that Mr. Dahl charged thousands of people around the country, including the elderly, for unordered magazines, then didn’t satisfy the court judgment and pay them back.”
According to the federal indictment:
Dahl bought names of consumers with active magazine subscriptions through other companies and, starting in 2009, directed his employees to call them and claim they were offering a $150 reduction on their existing account balance. In reality, the consumers had no subscription with Your Magazine Service.
Dahl also had his employees read from a script he crafted to obtain credit card information by falsely claiming it was for a survey on credit card and banking habits. The employees would then trick consumers into signing up for expensive magazine subscription packages they didn’t want nor realize they were purchasing.
These new subscription packages resulted in Dahl’s company billing for 20 monthly payments of $49.90 for a total of $998.
If consumers came back and challenged the charges, Dahl had audio recordings that only revealed employees confirming approval. He also gave his employees “rebuttal” scripts with false responses from the consumers.
So far, no charges have been filed against any Your Magazine Service employees.
People can report complaints about magazine marketers to the Minnesota attorney general’s office by calling 651-296-3353 or by mailing a complaint form to the office.
Dahl has been in smaller-scale legal trouble in Minnesota for nearly his entire adult life. He’s been convicted twice for drunken driving, four times for providing false information to police, repeatedly for driving without a valid license and once each for terroristic threats and disorderly conduct.