Texas Man Charged with Engaging in Nationwide Warranty Fraud Scheme Targeting Cisco Systems, Amazon.com, and Others and Stealing More Than $3M in Merchandise
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Vaughn Simon, 27, of Pearland, TX, was charged today by Information with 22 counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, two counts of filing a false tax return, and one count of tax evasion.
The Information alleges that the defendant perpetrated a scheme to defraud Cisco Systems Inc. (“Cisco”), the Neat Company (“Neat”), iRobot Corporation (“iRobot”), APC by Schneider Electric (“APC”), Amazon.com (“Amazon”), and other companies by engaging in a sophisticated warranty fraud scheme. The charges state that the defendant and his co-schemers obtained serial numbers to products sold or manufactured by Cisco, Neat, iRobot, and APC. They allegedly proceeded to register false domain names, obtain false email addresses, and submit false warranty claims, pretending to own products sold or manufactured by these companies that they claimed were not working. The Information alleges that the defendant provided customer service representatives with descriptions of the non-existent defects that he knew they could not solve by troubleshooting and would require replacement with new products. Cisco, Neat, iRobot, and APC then shipped the replacement products to the defendant and his co-schemers, which they promptly sold via eBay, on Amazon, or through computer resellers.
The Information further alleges that the defendant and his co-schemers defrauded Amazon by using false identities, domain names, email addresses, and mailing addresses to order products that they falsely claimed never arrived or arrived broken, thereby inducing Amazon to repeatedly send replacement products. The defendant and his co-schemers then allegedly sold the products obtained in this manner via eBay.
All told, the Information alleges that the defendant and his co-schemers attempted to obtain more than $5,000,000 worth of products from the victim companies, and successfully obtained more than $3,000,000 worth of Cisco products, as well as products worth thousands of dollars from other victim companies.
The charges also allege that the defendant filed false tax returns for tax years 2014 and 2016 in which he underreported his income by approximately $95,000 and $212,000, respectively, and evaded the payment of any income tax on the income he earned from his fraud for tax year 2015 by, among other things, failing to file a return, storing his fraud proceeds in bank accounts and PayPal accounts in the names of co-schemers, storing cash at his residence, paying his personal living expenses with cash, and using false email addresses, false domain names, prepaid gift cards, and false identities to conceal his involvement in the fraud scheme.
The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 821 years’ incarceration, a five-year period of supervised release, and a fine of $8,250,000.
“As alleged, Simon committed a sophisticated warranty fraud scheme in order to steal millions of dollars of merchandise,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Consumer warranties are designed to make honest consumers whole, not to provide a means for fraudsters to line their pockets. We will work tirelessly to investigate and punish this kind of disregard for the law.”
“Companies offer warranties in an effort to do right by their customers,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Taking advantage of those programs to score millions of dollars’ worth of free merchandise is nothing more than fraud. Anyone engaged in a scheme like this should know that the FBI will be more than happy to step in, shut it down, and hold you accountable.”
“Mr. Simon’s failure to report all of his income is unlawful,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez. “The American people can rest assured that IRS-CI works vigorously to enforce our nation’s tax laws; ensuring that everyone is playing by the rules and paying the taxes they owe.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.
An Indictment, Information, or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.