March 22, 2011
HOUSTON RESIDENT PLEADS GUILTY TO FRAUDULENTLY ORDERING THOUSANDS OF CELL PHONES USING THE NAMES OF LOCAL BUSINESSES
(HOUSTON) – Lashay Simmons, 22, of Houston, has pleaded guilty to access device fraud in connection with a scheme in which she fraudulently ordered thousands of Sprint cell phones, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
In January 2009, according to the plea agreement, a security manager for Sprint PCS contacted the Secret Service about a scheme in which an individual or individuals had placed more than 250 orders for cell phone accounts using the names of Houston area businesses without their permission. The person placing the order would typically request that 10-20 phones be shipped on each new account. While, the original order would list the actual address of the business, a subsequent call was placed to change the address to various addresses in the Houston area. The cell phones would thus be delivered to those amended addresses. The retail cost of the cell phones Sprint shipped as a result of these orders is approximately $493,000.
Simmons emerged as a likely suspect after Sprint determined the number used to place the orders was a Sprint phone registered to Simmons. In addition, one of the primary addresses being used to receive the redirected phone shipments was the address Simmons used on her personal Sprint account. In February 2009, the Secret Service conducted surveillance at another address being used in the scheme and observed Simmons waiting outside the residence and then taking the package from the UPS driver. Shortly after that surveillance, Jersey Village Police arrested Simmons in connection with one of the fraudulent orders. Simmons had used a Jersey Village business to order the phones and was not successful in redirecting that shipment to an address she controlled. Simmons thus called the business to say she was coming to pick up a package that belonged to her and had erroneously been sent to the business. The business, suspicious about why its name was on a package it had not ordered, contacted police who were waiting for Simmons when she arrived.
Simmons entered the guilty plea to one count of access device fraud this afternoon before United States District Judge Nancy Atlas. She is set for sentencing on June 7, 2011, at which time she faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. She may also be ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $493,000. She has been in state custody serving a sentence on other charges.
The case was investigated by the Secret Service with assistance from the Jersey Village Police and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gregg Costa.
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