I often call myself a techno-idiot, and while that may be unkind, it’s not untrue. So it’s dangerous for me to try to explain this case, in which a Montana man plead guilty to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges after a $70 million case of “phone cramming.”
But if you’re smarter than I am — and than the defendant — you might want to know. For fictional purposes only. According to the Missoulian newspaper, 59 y.o. Steven Sann pled guilty to the charges, in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office says he tricked customers across the country into signing up and paying for services they didn’t authorize or receive — primarily voicemail accounts and fax services — while answering questions on websites offering free products or job search assistance. While the monthly charges were small — ranging from 9.95 to $24.95 — they added up; his companies eventually returned more than $40 million to customers.
The newspaper reports that Sann’s lawyer says the plea agreement recommends a 2-year prison sentence. Stay tuned; Montana judges — state and federal — can be an independent-minded bunch.
July 2015 update: The AP reports that Sann was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to forfeit $500,000 that he had transferred to his personal accounts.