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Press Release

Richmond Man Pleads Guilty in Internet Sales Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – A Richmond man pleaded guilty today to wire fraud in connection with a scheme involving the sale of fictitious online businesses.

According to court documents, between 2018 and 2019, Harlan Barry Cox, 24, promoted the sale of internet-based businesses, including multiple companies that purported to specialize in the sale of drones, by listing those businesses on online marketplaces. When soliciting the sales of the purported businesses, Cox, using aliases, misrepresented information about the businesses, including that the businesses had generated millions of dollars in revenue. Cox also fabricated statements from banks and payment processors to support his false claims of substantial revenue.

Interested buyers of the misrepresented businesses subsequently wired substantial down payments to accounts controlled by Cox. Cox used the money for personal expenses and the upkeep of his lifestyle, including the purchase of a luxury Mercedes SUV and various trips to Miami, New York City, and Los Angeles. Ultimately, Cox defrauded five victims of at least $706,000.

Cox is scheduled to be sentenced on March 1, 2022. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office; and Daniel A. Adame, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge David J. Novak accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Avi Panth and Michael C. Moore are prosecuting the case. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin S. Elliker assisted with the prosecution.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:21-cr-078.

Updated October 22, 2021

Financial Fraud