News and Press Releases

Final Three Defendants Plead Guilty in Multi-million Dollar Fraud Against Cellular Service Providers

January 11, 2012

Courtney Beckford, Malachi Burris and Samuel Burris pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon immediately prior to the commencement of trial to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud charges arising from their roles in a scheme that obtained millions of dollars worth of cellular phones from AT&T, T-Mobile and Asurion Protection Services. The proceedings were held before United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry, at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.

The guilty pleas were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Brian G. Parr, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Secret Service, New York Field Office.

According to the charging documents and other court filings, between February 2005 and July 2009, these three defendants, and 12 of their co-conspirators who previously pled guilty in this case, fraudulently obtained existing customer information from AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s customer databases, including customers’ names, addresses and personal identifying information. Various of the defendants then assumed the identities of existing customers and using this information caused AT&T and T-Mobile to ship new or replacement wireless devices worth millions of dollars by express delivery via FedEx, DHL and UPS – without payment to the companies or permission from the real customers. AT&T’s wireless devices were generally shipped to addresses along the routes of FedEx and DHL drivers, who were recruited and paid to divert packages to the defendants. The defendants subsequently sold the fraudulently obtained devices to others in the United States and Jamaica. The charges incurred from the use of the stolen devices were billed to actual AT&T and T-Mobile customers’ accounts. When those customers reported or confirmed the fraud on their accounts, AT&T and T-Mobile absorbed the losses.

“Identity theft strikes fear in the minds of consumers, and as this case demonstrates, with good reason. This prosecution resulted in the dismantling of a pervasive fraud ring that stole millions of dollars of cellular phones through theft, fraud and the collusion of corrupt delivery drivers,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “Fifteen convicted defendants who preyed upon innocent victims will now be held accountable for their actions.” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the Secret Service, the agency responsible for leading the government’s investigation, and thanked the New York State Police for their assistance.

The three defendants who pleaded guilty yesterday face maximum sentences of 20 years’ imprisonment on the mail and wire fraud conspiracy convictions.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karin Orenstein and Douglas Pravda.

The Defendants:

Age: 51

Age: 47

Age: 52

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