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A Blaine businessman has received a 4½-year term for concocting a scheme to defraud hundreds of job seekers out of about $600,000 with false promises of work selling home security or water filtration systems.

Charles E. Fields, 44, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis after pleading guilty to wire fraud in connection with cheating at least 250 people out of several thousands of dollars each.

Along with prison time, Fields' sentence includes three years of supervision after his release and an order to make restitution to his victims of $598,893.

Prosecutors argued ahead of sentencing for Fields to serve 5¼ years in prison.

"Fields tricked people as a matter of routine on virtually a daily basis," the prosecution wrote in a presentence filing. "Fields' crime was elaborate and took constant planning and calculation, including his creation of fake names, multiple email accounts, and multiple businesses."

The filing included emails sent to Fields from his victims that spell out the damage the scheme was doing to people's lives.

"Please provide me with some sort of update," one email began. "My livelihood is at stake here. We just moved a month ago, and I am now unable to pay rent my first month in. ... We are in serious trouble here, and I'm struggling to find a way to even feed my family. I need to know what's going on."

The defense countered that Fields' prison term should fall anywhere from just shy of two years to 2⅔ years.

"Mr. Fields admits his desperation to succeed made him become 'financially greedy,' " the defense filing read. "He reported trying to grow his company faster than prudent and acknowledged, 'I should have been more patient.' "

The employment opportunities that Fields pitched were made through his businesses, among them HomeSoft Systems Inc., WaterTek Marketing Corp., Water Innovations Group Inc., WIG Holdings Corp., Mile High H20 Corp. and the New H20.

From 2015 to 2020, according to the indictment, Fields required applicants to pay a deposit ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 before hiring them to sell home security products and various models of water machines and filtration systems made by an international company that remained anonymous in the indictment.

A KARE 11 television report in 2019 identified that company as Enagic, based in the Los Angeles area.

Fields enticed people around the country to apply by promising but not delivering training, sales leads and $6,000 in guaranteed monthly profit.

Fields kept his victims at bay with bogus excuses about why his end of the deal was not being kept. At times, he would change the names of his companies in order to keep his scheme alive and "to avoid any negative association with previous consumer complaints."