Portage Man Sentenced To 16 Years’ Imprisonment For Leading Scheme To Defraud Amazon’s Textbook Rental Program
Talsma is last of four defendants sentenced for participating in the mail fraud scheme
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Mark Totten announced today that Chief United States District Judge Hala Y. Jarbou sentenced Geoffrey Mark Hays Talsma, 37, of Portage, Michigan, to 16 years’ imprisonment for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Talsma’s sentence additionally includes an order to pay restitution to Amazon in the amount of $3,227,347.82. While imposing the sentence, Chief Judge Jarbou commented that Talsma “concocted the scheme and involved many others.”
“Financial crime harms businesses and harms consumers. When someone cheats, we all pay,” said U.S. Attorney Totten. “My office will not tolerate financial fraud and will vigorously pursue those who profit from defrauding others.”
According to court documents, 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 additional textbooks. The fraud scheme caused losses to Amazon well in excess of $3,000,000.00.
“For years, Talsma and others enriched themselves by targeting an Amazon program designed to help students save money,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Mr. Talsma's sentence sends a strong message that the FBI is committed to working with corporations and our law enforcement counterparts to root out this type of fraud and to hold those who participate in these schemes accountable for their criminal behavior.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to pursue those who utilize the U.S. Mail to perpetrate fraudulent schemes and bring them to justice” said Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Detroit Division. “This investigation, and today’s sentence reaffirms the important role the U.S. Postal Inspection Service plays in protecting our American consumers and businesses from fraudulent schemes that utilize the U.S. Mail.”
Talsma is the last of four defendants to be sentenced for their roles in the mail fraud scheme. The other individuals previously sentenced include:
- Lovedeep Singh Dhanoa, age 25, of Portage, Michigan – 15 months’ imprisonment
- Paul Steven Larson, age 32, of Kalamazoo, Michigan – 6 months’ imprisonment
- Gregory Mark Gleesing, age 44, of Portage, Michigan – 3 years’ probation, including 4 months’ home detention.
The offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kalamazoo, and the United States Postal Inspection Service, Grand Rapids, investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald M. Stella prosecuted the case. Amazon referred the matter to law enforcement and provided significant support to the investigation.