Feds Charge Brit in $22 Million Fraud Scheme

     LAS VEGAS (CN) – A grand jury has indicted a British man on federal fraud charges after prosecutors accused him of withdrawing $22 million from the bank accounts of hundreds of thousands of victims.
     A 39-count indictment filed March 9 and unsealed this past Friday charges Texas resident Gareth David Long, 37, with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.
     “Long abused the sensitive personal and financial information of hundreds of thousands of Americans in a brazen scheme to steal millions of dollars from unwitting account-holders,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Mizer said.
     The indictment says that between 2008 and 2013, Long operated third-party payment-processing company V Internet Corp., based in Las Vegas, which gave him access to his victims’ personal and financial information.
     Long deposited unsigned, remotely created checks drawn on the accounts of hundreds of thousands of account-holders to illegally withdraw $22 million dollars, the indictment says. Instead of using signatures, payment-processors use a typed statement indicating the account-holder authorized the payment on remotely created checks in order to withdraw money.
     Although he had no authorization to charge the accounts, Mizer said Long told his victims’ banks that the debits were authorized. He used the money to buy airplanes, cars, farm equipment and other property, according to prosecutors.
     The indictment says in January 2013, Long registered the websites fastloanfast.com, loan4utoday.com and fastloan4me.com, which claimed to help consumers find online payday loans.
     From January through July 2013, Long deposited hundreds of thousands of remotely created checks valued at $30 and stated each account-holder had authorized a payment to Long’s company. He also used stored data to debit more than a hundred thousand accounts that had previously been debited by Long’s prior merchants, according to the indictment.
     The indictment says Long also created and deposited hundreds of thousands of additional, repeat charges against accounts he already charged, and created and deposited more than 750,000 checks totaling over $22 million.
     Mizer said about half of the checks were returned after account-holders reported the unauthorized charges, and some were returned because they were drawn on accounts that were nonexistent, closed or did not contain sufficient funds.
     The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch discovered the fraud while investigating Long’s bank, CommerceWest Bank.
     The U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized more than $2.9 million from V Internet’s accounts at CommerceWest Bank, and seized property Long bought with the money, including five airplanes, a Land Rover, a Dodge Charger, several tractors, five all-terrain vehicles and a fire truck.
     The criminal indictment seeks forfeiture of a house and other property Long bought in Cedar Hill, Texas.

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