Franklinville, New Jersey, Man Admits Using Fraudulent Invoices to Steal More Than $600,000 from Elementary Schools Across the U.S.
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Franklinville, New Jersey, man today admitted mailing fraudulent invoices for non-existent workbooks to more than 73,000 schools throughout the United States, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Robert S. Armstrong, 44, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to Count One of a superseding indictment charging him with mail fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Armstrong admitted that from July 2014 through September 2014, he sent more than 73,000 fraudulent invoices to schools throughout the United States seeking payment for non-existent workbooks. Armstrong opened mail boxes in Sewell, New Jersey, and Las Vegas, Nevada, under the name of his business, Scholastic School Supply LLC. Armstrong then drafted fraudulent invoices typically seeking payments of $647.50 for batches of math or language workbooks that the schools never ordered or received. In order to make the invoices appear legitimate, Armstrong included phony International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN), which are unique identifying numbers assigned to each book published in the United States.
Armstrong used a bulk mailing company to mail the phony invoices to more than 73,000 schools. Each invoice included a payment envelope preaddressed to Scholastic School Supply’s Sewell or Las Vegas address.
In response to the phony invoices, hundreds of schools throughout the United States sent payments to Scholastic School Supply. Armstrong deposited the checks from the victim schools into at least seven accounts that he had opened at various banks in the name of Scholastic School Supply. As of March 12, 2015, 938 schools sent checks to Scholastic School Supplies totaling $612,774.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Armstrong has agreed to serve a sentence of 44 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. According to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, when the parties agree to a stipulated sentence, the judge has the opportunity to accept or reject the plea agreement. Judge Hillman said he will reserve his decision on accepting plea agreement until he reviews a pre-sentence report from the U.S. Probation Office, which typically takes 60 to 90 days to prepare. Contingent upon the acceptance of his guilty plea by Judge Hillman, Armstrong’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25, 2015.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited law enforcement officers of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge David Bosch in Philadelphia; the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton; the Gloucester County Office of Consumer Protection, under the direction of Harold Spence, Director of Consumer Affairs; the Washington Township Police Department, under the direction of Raphael Muniz, Chief of Police; and the Franklin Township Police Department, under the direction of Mike Rock, Chief of Police.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Carrig of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden and Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Williams of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.