BOSTON – A husband and wife from Alpharetta, Georgia were charged Friday in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with a scheme to defraud Framingham-based Staples, Inc. of more than $1.4 million.
John Douglas, 46, was charged in an information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. His wife, Analyn Douglass, 41, was separately charged in an Information with conspiracy to ship stolen goods in interstate commerce.
According to the Information, the Douglases and others engaged in a complex scheme to defraud Staples of more than $1.4 million worth of customer loyalty rewards and product rebates. John Douglas and one of his associates created more than 1,100 Staples rewards accounts, often using fictitious names, addresses, and contact information. He then created a computer script to query a Staples web site and seek unclaimed customer loyalty rewards for purchases that he did not make. The computer script made thousands of queries a day, amassing more than $889,000 worth of rewards in small increments, often less than a dollar at a time. The Douglases and others then used the rewards like cash to buy merchandise at Staples retail locations throughout the southern United States and along the eastern seaboard, as far north as Massachusetts. Analyn Douglass sold much of the fraudulently obtained Staples merchandise on eBay.
In addition, the Douglases and the associate allegedly used a similar method to claim more than $527,000 in cash rebates from Staples for products that they did not purchase.
Staples discovered the fraud and referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for investigation. Staples has cooperated with the government’s investigation.
The charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud provide for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain/loss from the offense, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to ship stolen goods provides a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain/loss, whichever is greater. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Shelly Binkowski, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. D’Addio of Ortiz’s Cybercrime Unit.
The details contained in the Informations are allegations.
The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.