The con men used the names of entertainers such as Sting, Seal, Gloria Estefan and The Red Hot Chili Peppers for their scheme. They said they represented the artists through a company called Exposure Management.
"Wow, there's all these, you know, high-profile superstars here in this company," said U.S. Postal Inspector Michael DelGiudice, "so if you know it's going to go public, this is a great investment."
That is exactly what Ahmed Awan and Alan Labiner wanted potential investors to think. The problem was that the materials and the businesses were all bogus.
One New York victim says the pitch to invest in exposure management came in a cold call.
"They started off small with a low price and promised it was going to go higher," the victim said. "I have been solicited for every imaginable thing - stocks bonds, sunken treasure, stamps, coins, movie rights - everything."
He lost $47,000 and says the materials he received in the mail lured him in. The 150 victims in the scheme lost almost $7 million. The scammers used the money at strip clubs, restaurants, hotels and other personal expenses.
Awan and Labiner had ties to the financial world before the scam.
"At some point, you know, they just thought they could make more money, you know, scamming people than actually in the industry," DelGiudice said.
Inspectors say if investors checked, they would have found out the men were no longer licensed to solicit clients. Research remains a key.
"Look up the company name. Look up the stock that they are trying to sell you, just so that you know, you cover all your bases to make sure that it's legitimate," DelGiudice said.
Labiner was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the scheme. Awan received a 20-month prison sentence.