WEST PALM BEACH RESIDENT PLEADS GUILTY IN CRAMMING SCHEME
Steven Tamayo, of West Palm Beach, Florida, has pled guilty to participating in a cramming scheme. Cramming involves placing fraudulent charges on consumers' telephone bills. The Justice Department and the United States Postal Inspector's Miami Field Office announced the guilty plea today.
In pleading guilty, Tamayo admitted that from December 2009 to May 2010, he and others billed consumers through a Florida company called Text-Savings, Inc. Text -Savings purported to offer a service that, for a fee, would send a message to consumers' cell phones with information about local restaurants and stores. Tamayo held himself out as the Chief Executive Officer, owner, and President of Text-Savings, Inc. In reality, Text-Savings billed thousands of consumers for services that consumers neither ordered nor received.
Unknown to consumers and regulators, Tamayo was serving as a front man for Willoughby Farr, an individual who had been sued by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming and who, during part of Text-Savings’ existence, was under indictment and in jail on federal fraud charges stemming from another cramming scheme. Tamayo helped Farr operate Text-Savings by serving as the point of contact for the firms' billing practices, and for regulatory cramming complaints. Tamayo took direction from Farr on how to operate the business and how to respond to respond to consumer complaints.
Because Farr was in jail at times during Text-Savings' existence, Tamayo played an essential role as Farr's operator beyond his jail cell. Farr was later sentenced to 21 years' imprisonment for perpetrating a long-running cramming scheme from his West Palm Beach, Florida, jail cell.
Tamayo is scheduled to be sentenced for conspiracy to commit mail fraud on April 15, 2011. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum statutory term of 5 years in prison, a possible fine, and restitution.
Text-Savings charges appeared on selected AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest telephone bills from December 2009 through May 2010. Consumers are encouraged to review their bills for those months to determine whether they were victimized by the scheme.
Text-Savings charges typically stated: “TEXTSAVINGS,LLC-INET DIR LSTNG W/TEXT." Charges were typically in small amounts -- approximately $10 -- so as to avoid notice by consumers.
A consumer who finds a false bill for Text-Savings may contact the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, victim/witness unit to learn about their rights as crime victims. The U.S. Attorney's Office, victim/witness unit may be contacted at the following website: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/VictimWitness.html.
This case was investigated by U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by Richard Goldberg of the Office of Consumer Litigation, United States Department of Justice, with the assistance of the United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.