U.S. Citizen Extradited from Brazil Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud Charges
BOSTON – A former accountant pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston in connection with a $2 million wire fraud scheme.
Christopher Morris, 48, formerly of Lowell and Chelsea, Mass., pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and 12 counts of unlawful monetary transactions. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Dec. 10, 2019. In November 2014, Morris was charged in an indictment in the District of Massachusetts. In May 2019, he was extradited from Brazil, where he had been living since 2013.
Morris admitted that he 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. 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 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. Morris spent the proceeds of the scheme on a lavish lifestyle that included, among other expenses, 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 charges of wire fraud provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 on each count. The charge of unlawful monetary transactions provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of the greater of either $250,000 or twice the value of the criminally derived property. 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, Postal Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Field Division; and Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross made the announcement today. The U.S. Marshals Service for the District of Massachusetts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance with Morris’ extradition to the United States, and Lelling thanked Brazilian authorities for their cooperation in this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto, of Lelling’s Cybercrime Unit, is prosecuting the case.