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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 1, 2021

Pittsburgh Man Pleads Guilty in Mystery Shopper Fraud Scheme

PITTSBURGH, PA - A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of fraud conspiracy, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.

Robert Shon Jackson, 45, pleaded guilty to one count before Chief United States District Judge Mark R. Hornak.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that from around June 2013 to around October 31, 2013, Jackson participated in a Nigerian "mystery shopper" fraud scheme in which victims were falsely led to believe that they were being employed to anonymously evaluate products and services. After being recruited by the fraudsters, the victims unwittingly received counterfeit U.S. Postal Service money orders and checks, which they believed were provided to fund their evaluation purchases. The victims were told to deposit the instruments, keep a small portion of the funds for themselves, and wire the remainder to another individual who they believed was another mystery shopper, but was in actuality a co-conspirator. The counterfeit instruments were later returned to the bank, and the victims were charged for the funds they had deposited and additional fees.

The court was further advised that Jackson received bulk shipments of counterfeit USPS money orders sent from overseas, approximately 1,820 money orders in total, valued at approximately $1,787,771.40, along with counterfeit checks. Jackson also received mailing labels with the names and addresses of victims to whom he was to send the counterfeit instruments. Jackson would mail counterfeit money orders and checks to the victims along with "mystery shopper" instructions directing them to check their email accounts for additional instructions. The victims would be emailed instructions to wire funds to Jackson, his wife, and other accomplices. Jackson used false return names and addresses on the mailings of counterfeit instruments. Jackson would then receive funds from the victims by wire, then himself wire a portion of the proceeds to co-conspirators in Nigeria. Jackson kept a portion of the funds as his payment. The losses associated with Jackson’s offense totaled $28,461.00.

Judge Hornak scheduled sentencing for July 14, 2021. The law provides for a maximum sentence of not more than 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The United States Postal Inspection Service and the Department of Homeland Security conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Updated March 2, 2021