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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Monday, March 24, 2014

Philadelphia Man Admits To "Secret Shopper" And Craiglist Scams

PHILADELPHIA - Dave Brister, 57, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty today to all counts stemming from a counterfeit check scheme that victimized dozens of people across the United States through a series of Internet-based sales scams.  Brister pleaded guilty to 24 counts including conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud, two counts of presenting and transmitting counterfeit money orders, and four counts of passing and uttering counterfeit checks. U.S. District Court Judge Gene E.K. Pratter scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 17, 2014.

Brister teamed up with at least one person located outside of the United States to defraud Americans in a series of Internet-based schemes.  He allegedly duped the recipients of counterfeit checks and money orders into depositing the items into their bank accounts and wiring money to him.  In one scam, Brister and his co-conspirators posted advertisements on the website Craigslist.com for fake jobs, which included phony positions such as “secret shoppers” and “administrative assistants.”  Whenever a person answered the advertisement and was “hired” for the fake job, Brister or a co-conspirator would send counterfeit money to the “new employee” along with a set of instructions on how to complete their new “employment” obligations.  The instructions generally involved depositing the checks or money orders into their own bank accounts, keeping a portion as their “salary,” performing some simple task, and sending the rest of the money to Brister via Western Union or MoneyGram.  Only after wiring the funds to Brister did the would-be employees learn that the checks and money orders they had deposited into their bank accounts were counterfeit.

In a different scheme, a co-conspirator of Brister’s would respond to advertisements on Craigslist.com for the sale of merchandise, agree to buy the advertised item, send counterfeit checks or money orders to the seller in excess of the sales price, and indicate that the difference was to be spent on a third-party delivery company.  Brister’s co-conspirator would identify Brister as the representative of the third-party delivery company and ask the seller to deposit the check or money order into his account, keep enough to cover both the sales price and a little bonus, and then wire the rest to Brister.  As with the fake job-offer scheme, the sellers followed the instructions and wired thousands of dollars to Brister, only to learn that the monetary instruments they had received were counterfeit, and their bank accounts had been debited.

In total, Brister received more than $98,000 in fraudulent proceeds from the various Internet-based schemes between January 2008 and August 2012.  Brister and at least one co-conspirator also planned to send additional counterfeit checks and money orders to unsuspecting victims in the United States as part of their schemes.

Brister faces a possible advisory sentencing guidelines range of three to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $6 million, and a $2,500 special assessment.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Postal Inspection Service.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark B. Dubnoff.

Suite 1250, 615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
PATTY HARTMAN, Media Contact, 215-861-8525

Updated December 15, 2014