NYC man charged in $365K fitness Web site scam

AP News
Posted: Nov 06, 2009 11:45 AM

A former college staffer convicted of ripping off the school raised money to repay it by roping far-flung investors into funding a fictitious online fitness magazine, prosecutors said.

Mark Andrew Moore lured people from at least six states into putting up a total of $365,000 to launch an online personal fitness forum but created only a skeletal Web site, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said Thursday.

Moore, 40, was being held on $150,000 cash bond after pleading not guilty Thursday to charges including grand larceny and tax fraud. Defense lawyer Stephen McCarthy said Moore and his family were "looking forward to receiving justice."

The more than 50 victims mostly met Moore through an investment club, prosecutors said. One Massachusetts victim gave him $77,000; others pitched in an average of $5,000 each from California, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada and Virginia, according to prosecutors.

They said he spent the money on more than $100,000 in restaurant and bar tabs, a $3,500 Louis Vuitton bag, other luxuries and at least one necessity _ $15,000 in restitution from a 2000 grand larceny conviction for stealing from Hunter College, where he had been a facilities manager.

The college, part of the City University of New York, had no immediate information on him.

Moore sent victims bogus stock certificates and held conference calls about a venture called eS-prit International Inc., billing it as an online magazine and social network letting users communicate with health and fitness experts, assistant district attorney Hope Korenstein said.

In fact, the company headquarters was a rented post office box, the people listed as directors had never heard of it and its Web site is basically a template with little information, prosecutors said.

Moore faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.