- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 28, 2016

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Twenty people have been arrested for allegedly duping customers out of $126 million in a decades-long telemarketing scam based in Southern California.

The arrests Tuesday morning involve a Culver City-based scheme that began in 1988 and involved selling toner for printers and photocopiers at grossly inflated prices.

Authorities say telemarketers would call churches, charities, schools, city governments and small businesses.

Callers would claim to be affiliated with the groups’ regular suppliers. But when the victims ordered more toner, they were billed at up to 10 times the usual price.

Federal prosecutors say some 50,000 victims in the U.S. and Canada were duped.

An indictment unsealed Tuesday in Orange County charges 23 people with conspiracy and mail fraud, which carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison.

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