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BOSTON, March 30 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — A Mass…

BOSTON, March 30 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — A Massachusetts man was indicted today on wire and mail fraud charges for a scheme in which he advertised Superbowl tickets over the internet, collected approximately $255,000 from customers, and then never provided either the tickets or refunds.

United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Peter Zegarac, Acting
Postal Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in New
England, announced today that MICHAEL R. DEPPE, age 20, of 59 Bennett Street,
Hudson, Massachusetts, was charged by a federal grand jury, in a Superseding
Indictment, with 12 counts of Wire Fraud and 4 counts of Mail Fraud.
The Superbowl charges supplement the charges in a February 23, 2005
Indictment of DEPPE, which stem from the earlier part of his fraud scheme, in
which he received approximately $115,000 in payments for the purported sale of
items such as Rolex watches but never provided the items or refunded the
money.

“Con men are using twenty-first century tools to commit fraud, and the
U.S. Attorney’s Office is aggressively developing twenty-first century
investigative strategies to stop them,” stated U.S. Attorney Sullivan.
“Internet commerce is a critical component of the economy and we will
vigorously prosecute fraudulent activity that undermines its integrity.”
The Superseding Indictment alleges that the Superbowl ticket scam began
approximately two weeks before the February 6, 2005 Superbowl, when DEPPE
suggested to his business partner, referred to in the Superseding Indictment
as W.E., that they sell Superbowl tickets over on-line auction site eBay.
DEPPE falsely told W.E. that he had a contact at a reputable ticket agency in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, and that this person was willing to let him sell
Superbowl tickets on commission.

Through eBay advertisements that he wrote and phone calls he had with
customers, DEPPE persuaded approximately 41 customers to pay an approximate
total of $255,460 for Super Bowl tickets that he falsely promised to obtain.
The money for these purchases went initially to W.E., who then withdrew it
from his bank account and gave it to DEPPE in cash, in several installments,
because DEPPE falsely told W.E. that his contact at the ticket agency would
only deal with him and would only take cash. W.E. has not been charged with a
crime.

The week before the Superbowl, DEPPE falsely promised several times that
the tickets would be sent by overnight mail to the customers, but the
customers never received them. Each time, he later provided a false excuse.
He then falsely promised to provide the tickets personally to customers if
they would meet him at the Orlando, Florida airport on Thursday, February 3,
2005, three days before the game. But when several customers tracked him down
at the airport, he had no tickets. DEPPE never provided the Superbowl ticket
customers with the tickets for which they paid, and he never refunded their
money.
DEPPE was initially arrested on a criminal Complaint, at his Florida
hotel, on Friday February 4, 2005. He was transported back to Massachusetts
in custody and was released, on March 3, 2005, following a detention hearing
before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Swartwood, III. As conditions for his
release, Magistrate Judge Swartwood ordered DEPPE to sign a $150,000 unsecured
bond and prohibited him from having any access to, or using, a computer for
any purpose.

The Superseding Indictment also alleges that, before the Superbowl ticket
fraud, DEPPE scammed a number of people by contacting them via email claiming
he had merchandise to sell, primarily electronic equipment and Rolex watches.
Although specifics of each scam varied, DEPPE often requested his customers to
pay him by wire-transferring money to his bank account.

To persuade the customers that the sales were legitimate, DEPPE gave the
customers a U.S. Postal Service tracking number for the packages that he
claimed were being shipped to them with their merchandise. In some cases,
DEPPE even allowed customers to wait before wiring the purchase money to him
until they could confirm through the Postal Service that a package was on its
way to their zip code. It was not possible, however, for the customers to tell
from the Postal Service tracking website to what specific address the package
was being sent.
The Superseding Indictment alleges that DEPPE did often send a package to
the customer’s zip code but these packages were addressed incorrectly and were
filled with worthless newspapers or sports trading cards instead of the
merchandise he had sold them. The Superseding Indictment alleges that DEPPE
intentionally sent the packages to incorrect addresses to generate the
necessary Postal Service tracking number while avoiding having the worthless
packages delivered to the customers, which would have immediately alerted them
to the fraud. When customers complained to DEPPE that they had not received
their merchandise, he often claimed there had been a shipping error and
refused to refund their money.

From March 2003 through December 2004, DEPPE defrauded approximately 27
people of approximately $115,000 in total in this manner. DEPPE took most of
the fraud proceeds out of his bank accounts in cash and spent the rest on
personal expenses.
If convicted, DEPPE faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, to be
followed by 3 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine on each of the
16 counts.
U.S. Attorney Sullivan would like to especially thank Worcester County
District Attorney John Conte’s Office for referring the case for federal
prosecution. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection
Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder in
Sullivan’s newly-created Computer Crimes Unit.

The details contained in the Superseding Indictment are allegations. The
defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt in a court of law.

eBay tips for buying and paying safely on-line:

* Be careful about using checks or money orders to pay for purchases – it
can be extremely difficult to recover your money in cases of fraud.
* Credit cards and services like PayPal are generally safer because they
often provide some level of purchase protection.
* Never reply to e-mails asking for sensitive identity information – the
e-mail may be a spoof designed to steal your identity.
* As with other kinds of transactions, if an on-line offer seems too good
to be true, it probably is.

For these and other tips for shopping safely on line, see the “Security
Center” link on eBay’s website, http://www.ebay.com.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.