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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Friday, January 9, 2015

Man Sentenced in “Force Posting” Scheme that Defrauded Apple

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew today sentenced Sharron Laverne Parrish, Jr. (25, Tampa) to four years and nine months in federal prison for committing wire fraud. The Court also ordered him to forfeit $309,768.41, which are traceable to proceeds of the offense.

Parrish pleaded guilty on October 3, 2014.

According to court documents, from at least December 8, 2012, through July 17, 2014, Parrish engaged in wire fraud by providing fake bank authorization codes to merchants, particularly Apple, which allowed him to override denials of his closed bank and debit cards when he made purchases.

Typically, when a person attempts to use a bank or debit card to make an electronic purchase, the store merchant swipes the person’s card at a point of sale terminal. A bank authorization code is then generated by the issuing institution of the credit or debit card. This code signals the vendor that the account is active, that funds or credit is available, and it allows the vendor to accept payment using that card. Conversely, if the financial institution determines that the swiped card is affiliated with a closed account, or that funds or credit are insufficient to cover the purchase, no bank authorization code is generated. Rather, the merchant receives a declination.

Parrish had at least three Chase debit cards and one SunTrust debit card, all of which were associated with closed bank accounts. Thus, if used properly, the cards would have been declined by merchants when swiped at point of sale terminals. According to court documents, Parrish employed a scheme whereby he continued to use these canceled debit cards. He primarily used the cards to purchase expensive electronics, rent cars, and stay at hotels. When his canceled debit cards were declined by a merchant, he would pretend to call his financial institution and obtain an authorization code. He would then provide the cashier with a fraudulent bank authorization code, represent to the merchant that his debit cards and accounts were still active, and instruct the cashier to manually enter the authorization code. This would cause the merchant to override the declination and allow the transaction to be completed. This practice is commonly referred to as “force posting.” In one instance in January 2013, Parrish entered the Apple store at Brandon Town Center Mall and purchased $7,753.22 in merchandise using this scheme.

To date, the investigation has shown that Parrish used this “force post” scheme to defraud Apple stores in at least 16 states, including stores in the Middle District of Florida, resulting in approximately 42 different transactions and a fraud loss to Apple alone totaling $309,768.41. There is an additional $50,931.76 in intended loss to Apple from seven transactions that were either aborted by Parrish or declined by Apple.

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.

Updated February 5, 2015