‘Telemarketers’ Recap & Ending: What Happened To CDG And Pespas?

Telemarketers is a three-part documentary series directed by Adam Bhala Lough and one of the telemarketing company employees, Sam Lipman-Stern. This miniseries documented Sam and his buddy Patrick’s decade-long investigation into a fundraising scam in the United States. Sam started recording videos when he worked at Civic Development Group (CDG), a fundraising company that was later found to be involved in fraudulent activities. After CDG was shut down due to its scams, Sam and his friend Patrick Pespas teamed up to dig into CDG’s connections with charities. They aimed to expose how these groups were illegally taking money from people in the name of charity, but none of the funds were being used for actual charitable purposes.


What Happened To CDG?

In the first episode of Telemarketers, we meet Sam Lipman-Stern, a 14-year-old high school dropout who joined CDG in the early 2000s. CDG provided a haven for people who would have trouble finding work, including ex-convicts and drug addicts. In the first episode, Sam shared his remarkable experience of working side by side with a drug addict and a person convicted of murder. Owned by David and Mark Keezer and Scott and Brian Pasch, CDG offered decent pay for relatively undemanding work, making it a popular choice. The employees were instructed to contact regular people using a prepared script. Their task was to persuade these individuals to contribute funds to a charity that supported police, veterans, and cancer research. The employees were provided with responses to counter any objections people might have against donating money. CDG had connections with the FOP, which also supplied stickers as a form of recognition for the employees. The employees were directed to inform people that their donations would go straight to the charity, despite the fact that only 10% of the funds actually reached these organizations, with CDG keeping the rest for itself.

However, the employees were quite content with CDG. They treated it like home. Their job involved making calls pretending to be police officers for a charity for injured police officers and police widows. This emotional approach tugged at the heartstrings of people, who then donated willingly. Some even donated in different categories, like the gold or platinum level, with higher levels meaning more money. Neither Sam nor anyone from the company ever questioned whether the funds were actually used for charity. The employees were focused on the number of calls they made. During this time, Sam developed a passion for films. After receiving a camcorder as a gift, he started recording his office and all the employees at CDG. He soon became friends with Patrick Pespas, the most cheerful and unfiltered personality who was a hardcore drug addict. But no one could complain about his work ethic, as despite his addiction, Patrick made more calls than anyone, even while high. He valued his wife, Sue, immensely. Although Patrick’s mother had concerns about the job, she appreciated his contributions. Sadly, this idyllic life didn’t last for Patrick and the other CDG employees.


Since 1998, the Federal Trade Commission has been looking into CDG’s activities and even taking legal action against the company for making false claims about donation contributions. In 2009, the truth about CDG’s charitable claims came out. After a thorough investigation, the FTC revealed that CDG wasn’t actually sending the money to charities as promised. Instead, they were pocketing the funds. In 2009, CDG was forced to close its operations, with its employees losing the stable and satisfying jobs they had believed in. This news came as a shock for them, especially since they discovered that not even ten percent of the donated funds were reaching the intended charities. At first, they assumed that CDG was the culprit.

For Sam, this situation provided an opportunity. He teamed up with his friend, Patrick Pespas, to dig deeper. They wanted to find out if CDG acted alone or if others were involved, including the FOP they were associated with. They documented their investigation, with Patrick leading the way by visiting different places and interviewing charity and FOP heads to uncover the truth. However, this task wasn’t easy. The people in charge of these organizations were powerful and determined to protect their reputations. They went as far as to threaten journalists and investigators who were trying to uncover the truth about these fraudulent fundraising schemes.


What Happened To Pespas?

Telemarketers‘ creators reached out to charity managers and even investigated various fundraising events to understand the charity system. After CDG shut down, under Keezer’s leadership, they rebranded as RPI. Meanwhile, Patrick and Sam came to know that CDG wasn’t working alone at all, as the FOPs they were involved with were equally responsible for pocketing the funds. They started interviewing various charity organizations, asking them challenging questions they struggled to answer.

Sam’s aspirations for Telemarketers wouldn’t have materialized if it weren’t for Pespas. His charismatic personality added humor and emotional depth to Telemarketers. However, during the investigation and documentation process, Pespas vanished unexpectedly, leaving Sam on his own. Sam initially wasn’t overly concerned, knowing Patrick was working hard to overcome his addiction and was attending methadone clinics. But when Patrick suddenly disappeared, Sam grew worried, fearing he might be dead or that he’d left the country. The documentary project was put on hold because Patrick, who was the heart of the film, was no longer available.


But there’s no need to lose all hope; as we saw in the third episode of the series, after nearly eight years, Patrick reunited with Sam, appearing older and having successfully overcome his addiction. Patrick’s journey was tumultuous as he moved to Los Angeles and battled his addiction. During this time, Sue was diagnosed with cancer, but Patrick remained a steadfast support in her journey. Their heartwarming relationship, which had also been highlighted in the series, showcased Patrick’s incredible personality.

The documentary project resumed with the help of Sam’s cousin, Adam Bhala Lough, who had connections to the show’s co-producers, the Safdie brothers. With Adam’s assistance, Sam and Patrick picked up where they had left off. By 2020, as technology advanced, it came to light that telemarketing companies were not evolving but were coming up with more dubious schemes, like using AI to deploy robocallers. Shockingly, Patrick even identified the voice of a former CDG employee who had passed away as being used to deceive people. This discovery concerned both Patrick and Sam, leading them to take action.


During their journey, they were joined by a professional reporter named Sarah Keliner, who had been covering fundraising scams for many years. Unfortunately, her involvement led to her being pursued and threatened by the leaders of these organizations, who wanted to keep their wrongdoing hidden. At the conclusion of the third episode of Telemarketers, a connection between the telemarketing industry and the political and law enforcement systems is revealed, involving political agencies like Political Action Committees (PACs).

What Happened At Blumenthal’s Office?

The third episode highlighted Patrick Pespas’ efforts to discuss their concerns at the office of Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. Patrick asked the senator to arrange a congressional hearing to expose the darker truth of the telemarketing world. Blumenthal was also one of them who had investigated and previously taken action against these deeply flawed telemarketing agencies. But the film crew’s meeting with Blumenthal resulted in utter disappointment. Blumenthal prematurely ended the conversation and suggested that they follow up later. However, that was a fake promise, as Telemarketers series revealed that Blumenthal’s team never contacted them after that.


While the crew, led by Sam and Pat, may not have completely taken down the industry of telemarketing, their journey was far from futile. Their pursuit revealed the pervasive flaws deeply ingrained within the system. Their documentary exposed a troubling reality: the possibility that our future might suffer due to these unethical practices. Their documentary, which took the form of an HBO Max miniseries, was the proof of their ultimate triumph—not in completely dismantling the industry but in their determination to face challenges and reveal the truth. The documentary humanized the employees, showing how they became attached to a company they believed in. They felt indebted to CDG since their past prevented them from finding jobs elsewhere, but sadly, they ended up being manipulated, leading to the unfortunate loss of their jobs. The creators ensured that we grew fond of each of these characters, and this technique was evident in the camcorder videos from the early 2000s recorded by Sam. These videos were heartwarming and nostalgic, drawing us into the lives of these employees, who became central figures in the show.

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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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