Missing Baltimore County man charged in fraud

Posted at 8:40 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 20:50:33-04

Brian Wallen went missing nearly two-weeks ago. The Lutherville man is wanted for his role in a large, shady and sophisticated telemarketing and mail scam that targeted businesses.

According to the Federal Complaint, the scheme was designed to trick companies and get as much money as possible without workers catching on. Telemarketers would call businesses up, and then ship boxes of light bulbs and cleaning supplies that were never ordered.

"And then they would bill them many times the value of those light bulbs and cleaning supplies,” said United States Attorney for Maryland, Rod Rosenstein. “They would continue sending them and continue trying to collect, even though the companies haven't placed any orders."

Wallen, 52, was the CEO and oversaw the workers based out of Reisterstown. The company went by the name Midway Industries, and at least 14 other names to confuse their victims.

"There are thousands of victims and most of them are not in Maryland,” Rosenstein said. “One of the things this fraud scheme allegedly relied upon was the fact that the victims were not in the neighborhood, they could not come down the street and knock on the door and complain."

If they did complain, prosecutors allege the companies would get the runaround. And a refusal to pay for the unwanted merchandise and massively overpriced invoices would be met with repeated harassing phone calls.

"Many of the victims were large corporations that had large bureaucracies in multiple locations, and the schemers took advantage of that,” said Rosenstein.

According to the criminal complaint, Wallen’s company also preyed upon and defrauded churches, schools and homeless shelters.  Many were repeat targets.  In one case, a commercial office building was sent 25 light bulbs and charged nearly $980.  That's $39 per bulb, when the company purchased them for nearly $2 each.

"The defendant's companies billed more then $100-million, and that they collected more than $50-million in proceeds from victims in this scheme," Rosenstein said.

From 2010 to 2014 the Federal Trade Commission received more than 500 complaints, and shut the business down.  The Feds have been building their criminal case since then, but Wallen vanished before he could be charged.

Last month, Baltimore County Police found a suicide note inside Wallen's house.  His Jeep was found ditched about a half mile away near Loch Raven Reservoir.  An intense search was done, but there was no trace of Wallen.

"Based upon the note, we have reason to believe that his disappearance was connected to the criminal investigation," said Rosenstein.

Authorities are now hoping you can help find Wallen. They think he may still be in the area. If you know anything, please call police at 410-307-2020.

Wallen currently faces a mail fraud charge. If captured and convicted, he could be behind bars for up to 20-years.

Rosenstein says other charges might be brought down when Wallen is found. Other people involved in the scam are also under investigation.

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