Philadelphia Man Charged With "Secret Shopper" And Craigslist Scam
PHILADELPHIA - David Brister, 56, of Philadelphia, was charged by indictment, unsealed today, in a counterfeit check scheme that victimized dozens of people across the United States, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Brister is charged with one count of conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud, two counts of presenting and transmitting counterfeit money orders, and four counts of passing and uttering counterfeit checks. He was arrested this morning.
According to the indictment, Brister teamed up with at least one person located outside the United States to defraud Americans in a series of Internet-based schemes. He allegedly duped the recipients of counterfeit checks and money orders into depositing the items into their bank accounts and wiring money to him. In one alleged scheme, Brister and his co-conspirators posted advertisements on the website, Craigslist.com, for fake jobs, which included phony positions such as “secret shoppers” and “administrative assistants.” Whenever a person answered the advertisement and was “hired” for the fake job, Brister or a co-conspirator would allegedly send counterfeit money to the “new employee” along with a set of instructions on how to complete their new “employment” obligations. The instructions generally involved depositing the checks or money orders into their own bank accounts, keeping a portion as their “salary,” performing some simple task, and sending the rest of the money to Brister via Western Union or MoneyGram. Only after wiring the funds to Brister did the would-be employees learn that the checks and money orders they had deposited into their bank accounts were counterfeit.
In a different scheme, an alleged co-conspirator of Brister’s would respond to advertisements on Craigslist.com for the sale of merchandise, agree to buy the advertised item, send counterfeit checks or money orders to the seller in excess of the sales price, and indicate that the difference was to be spent on a third-party delivery company. Brister’s co-conspirator would identify Brister as the representative of the third-party delivery company and ask the seller to deposit the check or money order into his account, keep enough to cover both the sales price and a little bonus, and then wire the rest to Brister. As with the fake job-offer scheme, the sellers followed the instructions and wired thousands of dollars to Brister, only to learn that the monetary instruments they had received were counterfeit, and their bank accounts had been debited.
In total, Brister allegedly received more than $98,000 in fraudulent proceeds from the various Internet-based schemes between January 2008 and August 2012. It is further alleged that Brister and at least one co-conspirator planned to send more than $5.8 million worth of additional counterfeit checks and money orders to unsuspecting victims in the United States as part of their schemes
Each mail fraud count and each count of wire fraud count carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison; each counterfeit check count carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison; each conspiracy and each money order transmittal count carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison. Brister also faces a fine of up to $6 million, a $2,500 special assessment, and three years of supervised release, if convicted.
If convicted of all charges, Brister faces a maximum possible sentence of 395 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $6 million, and a $2,500 special assessment.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Postal Inspection Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark B. Dubnoff.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, EASTERN DISTRICTof PENNSYLVANIA
Suite 1250, 615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
PATTY HARTMAN, Media Contact, 215-861-8525