Two credit card processing company executives from Long Island were arrested Tuesday for allegedly scamming $30 million from more than 10,000 small businesses over several years, authorities said.
Michael Mendlowitz, 42, of Woodmere, and 36-year-old Richard Hart of East Meadow were each charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.
“Small businesses, like all businesses, are entitled to be treated fairly and to have their bills honestly reflect the services they received,” said Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “That is not what the businesses that Mendlowitz and Hart dealt with got. Instead, they allegedly got a series of lies and misrepresentations to support tens of millions of dollars in overbilling.”
Prosecutors said the duo, who operated Commerce Payment Systems (CPS), made false promises to businesses that used CPS to process debit and credit card sales.
The suspects allegedly promised that there were “no hidden fees,” and that rates were “guaranteed for life,” but CPS customers were in fact charged hidden fees, and the duo altered customer accounts to add even higher fees, authorities said.
They also used a “cost comparison calculator” that showed prospective clients a direct comparison between CPS and their competitors, but the calculators were intentionally designed to conceal many of the fees that the customers would be charged, according to investigators.
In addition, the duo allegedly concealed pages of contract terms that directly contradicted representations made to customers during the sales process, authorities said.
When internet ratings of CPS became negative, they started operating under a series of other corporate names, each with its own email domain, internet web page, and phone number, prosecutors said.
Mendlowitz was CEO and Hart was vice president and director of sales and the president of a number of CPS affiliated companies, authorities said.
They will be arraigned Tuesday at Manhattan federal court. They face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000 or more, if convicted.