United States of America vs. Grant Clark Wasik, Michael Austin Seward, and Kevin James McCormick
United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
Criminal No. 17-CR-300192-SMY
UPCOMING EVENTS: Final pre-trial conference has been re-set for April 23, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. at the U.S. District Court in Benton, Illinois. Jury Trial has been re-set for May 6, 2019 at 9 :00 a.m.. before Judge Yandle at the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois.
On May 23, 2018, Grant Clark Wasik, Michael Austin Seward, and Kevin James McCormick were named in a fourteen-count indictment for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343 the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Donald S. Boyce, announced.
According to the indictment, Seward and McCormick owned and operated two tech support scam businesses: Client Care Experts, LLC (“Client Care”), based in Boynton Beach, Florida, and ABC Repair Tech, based in Costa Rica. The conspiracy and scheme to defraud operated from approximately November 12, 2013, through at least December 9, 2016. During this period, Client Care Experts/First Choice victimized over 40,000 people and defrauded these individuals out of more than $25,000,000. The victims were located in all fifty of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, several U.S. territories, all ten Canadian provinces, the United Kingdom, and several other foreign countries. At least fifty-seven victims of the scam were located in twenty-two counties within the Southern District of Illinois, with multiple victims in both St. Clair and Madison Counties.
According to the indictment, Client Care/First Choice purchased pop-up advertisements, which appeared without warning on the victims’ computer screens and locked up their browsers. These pop-ups falsely informed the victims that serious problems, such as viruses or malware, had been detected on their computers. The pop-ups also usually warned the victims that they were at serious risk of losing their data and informed them to call a toll-free number. When the victims called the numbers shown on their screens, they were connected to Client Care/First Choice salespeople.
The indictment further alleges that the salespeople convinced the victims to allow them to have remote access to their computers. Once they accessed the victims’ computers, the indictment charges, the salespeople examined routine computer functions and processes and then tried to convince the victims that these functions and processes were evidence of problems. In addition, the salespeople also ran a system analyzer program on the victims’ computers. However, regardless of what this system analyzer showed, the salespeople allegedly still tried to convince the customers that their computers had serious problems. According to the indictment, the salespeople also concealed from the victims: (1) that they could make the pop-ups go away by unplugging or rebooting their computers; and (2) that Client Care/First Choice paid for the pop-up ads, which had frozen their computer browsers.
The indictment alleges that the salespeople usually charged the victims $250 for a computer system “tune up,” and then also sold them an anti-virus protection software for $400. The salespeople worked on commission.
In addition to the Client Care operation in south Florida, the indictment alleges that Seward and McCormick operated another call center located in the country of Costa Rica, which was known as ABC Repair Tech. According to the indictment, the employees of ABC Repair Tech engaged in the exact same fraudulent conduct as the Client Care employees.
Wasik is charged in the same indictment as Seward and McCormick. Their trial is currently set for July 23, 2018.
All of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Under the SCAMS Act, because it is alleged that the crimes took place in connection with telemarketing, and victimized ten or more persons over the age of 55, the maximum penalty is 30 years of imprisonment. The defendants can also be ordered to serve up to 5 years of supervised release after any term of imprisonment, can be fined up to $250,000, and can be ordered to pay restitution to the victims. The indictment against Seward, Wasik, and McCormick also charges thirteen additional counts of wire fraud. Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, supervised release of up to 3 years, and restitution.
These cases are part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Scott A. Verseman, Ranley R. Killian, and Nathan D. Stump.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office is cooperating with the federal investigation. In addition, the Florida Attorney General’s Office brought a civil enforcement action against Client Care/First Choice for the purpose of ending the fraudulent activities at that business.
The Federal Trade Commission has also been working to shut down illegal tech support scams. For more information about the FTC’s “Operation Tech Trap,” please go to https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/05/ftc-federal-state-international-partnersannounce-major-crackdown.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, that charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.