FT. LAUDERDALE, FL -- Combining the popularity of energy drinks with the chance of entering the vending industry could be a lucrative business opportunity scam. The owner of one such business from south Florida got 17-1/2 years behind bars for hoodwinking investors into buying Red Bull vending machines with the promise of making huge sales and profits.
Andrew Levinson, founder of Lauderhill, FL-based Creative Concepts of America, received the hefty sentence in Fort Lauderdale on April 19. Edward and Alan Perl, two brothers who acted as references for Creative Concepts, were sentenced on the same day to 57 months and 41 months.
South Florida's Sun-Sentinel reported that Levinson, 41, was convicted in February on 16 counts of mail and wire fraud. The business-opportunity company, or biz-op in industry parlance, supposedly pulled in more than $22 million by promising aspiring vending operators who bought the machines that they could make huge profits by selling at least 20 cans a day. According to the paper, prosecutors said actual sales were closer to two cans a day. Levinson and his company got rich while investors lost their homes, life savings and more, prosecutors added.
Approximately, 920 people nationwide bought the Creative Concepts vending machines. In a typical deal, about $21,000 bought five machines.
As with many biz-op swindles, Levinson used phony references, who were paid to lie, to persuade investors.
The Sun-Sentinel said Red Bull cancelled its vending machine contract with Levinson's company after the energy drink giant caught wind of Creative Concepts' sales tactic.
South Florida has been home to a string of business opportunity frauds, many of them vending machine promoters. Recent criminal cases there targeted DVD rental machines, greeting card displays and Internet kiosks, among other get-rich-quick gimmicks.