U.S. Citizen Extradited from Brazil to Face Wire Fraud Charges
BOSTON – A U.S. citizen appeared today in federal court in Boston after being extradited from Brazil in connection with a $2 million wire fraud scheme.
Christopher Morris, 48, formerly of Lowell and Chelsea, was extradited from Brazil and arrived in Boston yesterday. Morris was detained following an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley. In November 2014, Morris was indicted on four counts of wire fraud and 12 counts of unlawful monetary transactions. Since 2013, Morris had been living in Uruguay and Brazil.
The indictment alleges that Morris, an accounting professional, participated in a wire fraud scheme targeting his employer, PBS Distribution (PBSd), a media distribution business with operations in Allston and elsewhere. Morris’ position gave him access to U.S. mail addressed to PBSd’s accounting department, including checks payable to PBSd. According to the indictment, beginning as early as January 2008 and continuing through September 2012, Morris took more than $2 million in checks under the guise of depositing them into PBSd’s bank accounts, but he instead endorsed them to himself and deposited them into a personal bank account. Morris allegedly used his access to PBSd’s accounting system to conceal the theft by, among other steps, fraudulently causing credits to be issued to the accounts of customers whose checks he stole, and by causing PBSd’s general ledger to be altered to show that the same customers had made payments. It is further alleged that Morris spent the proceeds of the scheme on a lavish lifestyle that included year-long apartment rentals in New York City’s Greenwich Village and Tribeca neighborhoods; the down payment, purchase and upkeep of a waterfront condominium in Chelsea; and luxury clothing, dining and travel, including a $16,000 two-week South American cruise.
The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 on each count. The government expects to move to dismiss the charges of unlawful monetary transactions under the Rule of Specialty, a doctrine of international law that permits prosecution upon extradition only as to charges authorized by the extraditing nation. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Field Division; U.S. Marshal John Gibbons for the District of Massachusetts; and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross made the announcement today. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in securing Morris’ extradition to the United States. The U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledges Brazilian authorities for their cooperation in this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto, of Lelling’s Cybercrime Unit, is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.