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Press Release

Franklinville, New Jersey, Man Sentenced To 57 Months In Prison For Using Fraudulent Invoices To Steal More Than $600,000 From Elementary Schools Across The U.S.

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Franklinville, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 57 months in prison for 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, 45, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman to Count Two of a superseding indictment charging him with mail fraud. Judge Hillman imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.

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 a total of $612,774 in checks to Scholastic School Supply.

Armstrong originally pleaded guilty to Count One of the superseding indictment on June 12, 2015 and agreed to serve a stipulated sentence of 44 months in prison. 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 rejected the agreement, and Armstrong entered a new plea agreement on Sept. 15, 2015 in which he pleaded guilty to Count Two of the superseding indictment and agreed to a stipulated sentence of 51 to 63 months in prison.

In addition to prison term, Judge Hillman sentenced Armstrong to serve three years of supervised release. A restitution hearing will be held on Dec. 22, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited law enforcement officers of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge David W. 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 H. Spence Jr., 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 Lawrence W. Roberts, 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.

Defense counsel: Rocco C. Cipparone Jr. Esq., Haddon Heights, New Jersey.

Updated November 13, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-416