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Man gets prison for scam tied to Utah vending firm

Published June 30, 2011 4:42 pm

Courts • S.L. man also ordered to pay $5.2Min restitution to investors in Gold Star.
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A federal judge has sentenced a Salt Lake City man who fled the country to avoid prosecution to 10 years and five months in prison for operating an investment fraud through a Utah company.

Robert Nicol also was ordered to pay $5.2 million in restitution to investors in Midvale-based Gold Star Vending Inc., which also had been called Table Top Vending Inc.

Nicol fled to a remote section of the Philippines in 2007 after a postal inspector executed a search warrant at the Gold Star offices. He was found and returned to the U.S. in March 2010.

Beginning about January 2003, Nicol and six others promoted Gold Star Vending Inc. as a highly profitable business opportunity — $100,000 a year for a $15,000 investment — that involved placing tabletop games in restaurants and other locations, and collecting the coins patrons fed into them, court documents say.

Nicol and others faked references and testimonials and also staged seminars and placed classified ads with false information, including the potential profitability of the tables, the government said.

"This defendant used his business-opportunity scam to target those trying to make an honest living and then fled to the Philippines when his fraud was discovered," Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice, said in a news release.

Nicol, who was sentenced this week in Miami (home to some of his victims), is the last of seven defendants to be convicted and sentenced in connection with Gold Star Vending. They include his son, Charles Nicol, who was sentenced to more than three years in prison.

Another was Andrew Vogen of Salt Lake City, who acted as "Mike Williams," a reference who supposedly lived in Canada, but calls from potential buyers were actually routed to his home.

Vogen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced in December 2009 to two years in prison and ordered to pay $203,000 in restitution.