Marietta scam artists' hook: Raquel Welch

Two imaginative men were sentenced in federal court Wednesday for swindling investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Out of their Marietta-based operation, the men duped investors by claiming, among other things, that actress Raquel Welch was the spokeswoman for a cosmetics company they owned.

But that wasn't their most audacious assertion: They said they were working with the University of Minnesota to develop a tree species that grew faster.

Patrick J. Soltis, 47, of Hoschton cooperated with the government and received a reduced sentence of 3 years, 5 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay $301,601 in restitution.

John A. Reece, 57, of St. Augustine, Fla., received 6 years, 6 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay restitution of $582,639.

"These defendants ran an investment boiler room operation using telemarketers to pressure their unsuspecting victims into investing thousands of dollars in a variety of phony ventures," U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said.

Soltis and Reece bought call lists and provided scripts for their telemarketers, who targeted investors in Australia and Canada. They enticed the victims to invest in a shell company called Wolf & Soltis Holdings. Prosecutors said they focused on foreigners to avoid scrutiny by U.S. law enforcement.

"The defendants pocketed the lion's share of the money they received from investors and used the rest to pay their telemarketers, telephone bills and related expenses," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Soltis and Reece split after a disagreement. Then, prosecutors say, Reece launched another telemarketing scheme that sold fictional shares in something called "Australian Biofund Investments."