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Press Release

Portage Man Pleads Guilty To Mail Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft Related To Amazon’s Textbook Rental Program

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Geoffrey Mark Hays Talsma, 36, of Portage, Michigan, pled guilty in the United States District Court in Lansing, Michigan, to charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.  Talsma is the fourth and last individual to plead guilty to charges of defrauding Amazon’s Textbook Rental Program.

          According to the plea agreement, from January 2016 to March 2021, Talsma defrauded Amazon by using the internet to create numerous Amazon accounts and email accounts to rent textbooks and sell the textbooks for a profit when he should have returned the textbooks or paid the agreed upon buy-out price.  Talsma caused Amazon to ship the textbooks through the United States Postal Service or across state lines using private commercial carriers.  He concealed his fraudulent activities in part by recruiting and paying unwitting individuals to accept shipments of stolen textbooks at their homes so that Amazon would not detect a pattern of large volumes of books going to locations associated with him.  Over time, Talsma taught some of these same individuals his scheme to defraud and actively supervised their participation in the fraud.  Defendant shared the profits of the fraud scheme with these individuals after he sold the textbooks over the internet and at various bookstores, including a bookstore in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Additionally, according to the plea agreement, Talsma also ordered rental textbooks in the names of unwitting individuals and then pretended to be those individuals when calling Amazon and falsely claiming that he did not receive the textbooks.  Talsma then received a credit from Amazon that he used to order further textbooks.

          Talsma’s sentencing is scheduled for June 28, 2022, in the United States District Court in Lansing, Michigan.  Talsma faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years for the mail fraud conviction and a maximum term of imprisonment of two years for the aggravated identity theft conviction, to be served consecutively to any sentence imposed for the mail fraud. The Court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Restitution and forfeiture of certain assets obtained with the proceeds of the scheme may also be ordered as a result of his convictions.

          The offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kalamazoo, and the United States Postal Inspection Service, Grand Rapids, are handling the investigation.  Amazon referred the matter to law enforcement and has supported the investigation.

          Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald M. Stella is prosecuting the case.

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Updated February 25, 2022

Financial Fraud