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The Almighty Buck Crime

Scammers Lower Comcast Bills, Get Jail Time 103

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the no-one-weeps-for-comcast dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about a scam with a twist. The scammers purchased login details to internal Comcast systems from an employee using them to lower the bills of Comcast customers, for a price. "Alston Buchanan, the mastermind of a two-man scam to lower the bills of Comcast customers for a price, pleaded guilty last week and awaits sentencing. His accomplice, Richard Justin Spraggins, who also pleaded guilty in February, will serve 11-23 months in prison and pay Comcast $66,825. Their operation purportedly cost Comcast $2.4 million, and Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customers. However, the allegedly huge financial loss went undetected until a Comcast customer reported his/her suspicions to Comcast customer service."
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Scammers Lower Comcast Bills, Get Jail Time

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  • by penix1 (722987) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @05:14AM (#46813379) Homepage

    His accomplice, Richard Justin Spraggins, who also pleaded guilty in February, will serve 11-23 months in prison and pay Comcast $66,825. Their operation purportedly cost Comcast $2.4 million, and Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customers. However, the allegedly huge financial loss went undetected until a Comcast customer reported his/her suspicions to Comcast customer service."

    So supposedly they lost $2.4 million yet the fine for one accomplice is is only $66,825??? And of course Comcast uses this incident as an excuse to raise the price on everyone including the fool that reported it... I guess the old adage "no good deed goes unpunished" applies here.

    • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @06:25AM (#46813515) Homepage Journal

      the guy who did the internal investigation and lawyer costs... 2.4 million. I guess they're claiming that they don't know which discounted rates were legit and which were purchased so they removed the discount backdoor from the system. that's a bit fishy if they had used it for discounting feature for people who had suffered from service outages etc...

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        If you think that is fishy, you might also ask how $2.4 million in loss, which I believe with investigation and legal fees etc.... but.... how does such a tiny loss compared to a company engaged in billion dollar deals.... translate into an increase in every customer's bill? By what, a penny?

        Who is the real crook now, the guy who defrauded the big company, or the big company who used that fraud as an excuse for a naked price hike.

        "We are raising money for the douglasses, they got robbed last week"
        "Oh my how

    • by gsslay (807818) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:04AM (#46813591)

      they lost $2.4 million yet the fine for one accomplice is is only $66,825???

      You want to know the definition of pointless? Fining someone more money than they actually possess. You could demand $2.4 million if it makes you feel better, but you ain't getting it.

      "the fool that reported it"

      Some of us might like to think of "the fool" as "the honest individual". I guess it depends on the quality of your moral compass.

      • by Entropius (188861) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:14AM (#46813619)

        When dealing with Comcast my moral compass doesn't read accurately because of all of their bullshit.

        • Forget moral compass, logical thought completely disappears. "Comcast did or said something, or something happened or was said to comcast: prepare for the internet to get slower and the bill to go up, and some assholes to blabber on about freedoms from government intrusion."
      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:15AM (#46813621)

        Apparently you've never been to court. The judge sure as hell doesn't care how much money you have or if you'll ever be able to repay it. I've had a large settlement against a guy since the early 90s (he broke into my house while drunk and destroyed everything I owned at the time.) He sends me about $50/yr because, even 20yrs later he's still a looser and in and out of jail. The only reason he sends me anything is because he's basically constantly on parole and they make it a condition. I could sue him, but that would be an exercise in futility and cost me thousands. But, the point is, when he lost the original case, the judge had no problem fining him for the actual damages, even though there was basically never a way for him to pay it off unless he won the lottery.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          There is a way to get a return on that, you know.

          Barring severe issues, sponsoring the guy in AA and helping him find a job & get his life back together could get you all your money payed back.

          Just sayin'

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The risk/reward ratio of doing this would be lower than traditional investments. Otherwise you'd see rich people "Taming the Shrew" all the time in exchange for a percentage of the poor person's future earnings.

      • by Thruen (753567)

        they lost $2.4 million yet the fine for one accomplice is is only $66,825???

        You want to know the definition of pointless? Fining someone more money than they actually possess. You could demand $2.4 million if it makes you feel better, but you ain't getting it.

        Probably worth pointing out that they charged 5,790 customers $75-$150 for this, at the low end that puts their profits around half a million dollars. At the high end, over $800k. The fine is entirely insufficient, which I'm still alright with because fining them enough would mean they're treated worse than corporations, and that's never fun to see.

      • by danlip (737336)

        Some of us might like to think of "the fool" as "the honest individual". I guess it depends on the quality of your moral compass.

        or "dirty fink". Hey, my compass works fine.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Thruen (753567)
      I believe the $2.4 million number, it does say that 5,790 customers saved an average of $414 which puts it around $2.4 million, and savings like that wouldn't be difficult to achieve over maybe six months time without Comcast noticing the difference. As to the excuse, yeah it's nothing but. They have about 21 million customers, so this cost them a little over a dime per customer. I'm for fining the guys who did it, but jail time is completely ridiculous for how little this affected Comcast, as is suggesting
      • by Meyaht (2729603)
        They didn't make enough money to be exempt from the legal process. Had they successfully taken and laundered a few hundred million before being caught, they could have just apologized to a congressional hearing.
    • Even better... They lost $2.4 million and have to raise the prices on their customers. Yet this Time-Warner buyout is supposed to be in the billions?

      Who the hell is fitting the bill for that?

  • Forced them (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @05:15AM (#46813383)

    "Forced them to raise the rates on all their customers"

    Literally everything forces them to raise their rates.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @05:31AM (#46813407)

      Literally everything forces them to raise their rates.

      Damn... You just forced them again with your comment! STOP!!!!

      • by jythie (914043)
        Well, their comment probably is wasting precious Comcast network bandwidth as people read it, so they must raise their rates in order to compensate for the increased non-tv load.
    • Re:Forced them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @06:10AM (#46813493)

      these lucky 6000 customers were probably paying what they **would have been paying** had government regulation still existed with regards to cable tv rates. deregulation is not necessarily a good thing, especially in areas where there is virtually zero built-in competition for wireline coax-delivered services.

      • by raymorris (2726007) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:58AM (#46814527)

        The basic cable rate IS set by the government agency that issues the franchise (legally forced monopoly). That's known as the LFA. Until 1996-1999, the FCC mostly set that rate, now it's primarily set by the LFA.

        During the period of double regulation, 1992-1999, rates increased at 5.6% per year. Once the FCC stepped aside, that was reduced to 4.6%.

        So knowing that having Washington bureaucrats set rates increases them, what reduces rates? Rates are 22%-30% lower in areas with competition.

      • The problem is they are not de-regulated; in a lot of places there are regulations preventing competition. We need to get rid of bad regulation and add good regulation.
    • by flyneye (84093)

      Ahhh, takes me back to the days when we would just climb the pole and hook ourselves up. It would take 6 months or so till we got a postcard saying that we had cable and we should pay for it or they would unhook it. Then it would take another 6 months for them to unhook it. Mind you , this was LONG before the days of internet. Showtime could be had if someone stole an inline dongle, hooked right up between the coax and t.v. We didnt even necessarily need a cable box if the t.v. had individual tuning for eac

    • by Drethon (1445051)
      "Record profits forced them to raise the rates on all their customers", next?
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Economy is great, raise the rates to take advantage of it!
      Economy sucks, raise the rates so we can spend more and improve the economy!

  • 1. Removed BS items from customers' bill?
    2. Removed legitimate items from the customers' bill?
    3. Price of certain items were modified?

    TFA only says "accounts were changed". IMHO comcast has some explaining to do to its customers if it were case 1.

    • by swb (14022)

      My guess is that the options for cutting a bill are limited because Comcast probably doesn't enable a random customer service agent to change pricing in any meaningful way to prevent unauthorized "friends and family" discounts. Large credits probably require at least one level of supervisory approval and are probably audited closely.

      I would think that the CRM system they used has some kind of tie-in to the provisioning system as well, so if you had a bunch of pay channels and you edited the subscription le

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @06:08AM (#46813487) Homepage

    Customers were not charged retroactively for the discounted amounts, but their bills were "corrected on a moving-forward basis."

    Well, of course, otherwise they will lose this great excuse for a price hike.

    Also, unless their billing system is completely ridiculous, an employee account would only be able to switch users to a lower existing plan (e.g. some sort of concession), and I doubt that even their most discounted plans lose money. In the end, they claim to have lost 2.4 million (not clear if it is in less than a year) out of 16 billion annual revenue - so, what is it, a 0.015% price increase? But anyway this is Comcast...

    • Customers were not charged retroactively for the discounted amounts, but their bills were "corrected on a moving-forward basis."

      This part doesn't make sense to me, obviously these customers were just as active in defrauding Comcast, they should be required to pay the money they owe at a minimum, criminal charges seems more appropriate. Why play favorites? They're equally guilty as the perpetrators of the scam. Without them, the scam wouldn't have worked.

      • by mooingyak (720677)

        Customers were not charged retroactively for the discounted amounts, but their bills were "corrected on a moving-forward basis."

        This part doesn't make sense to me, obviously these customers were just as active in defrauding Comcast, they should be required to pay the money they owe at a minimum, criminal charges seems more appropriate. Why play favorites? They're equally guilty as the perpetrators of the scam. Without them, the scam wouldn't have worked.

        Probably because some of them were legitimately handled by the employee in question, and determining actual liability on each and every one of them would be prohibitively expensive. Would be my guess.

  • 2.4 million dollars is irrelevant in that enterprise.

    They spend a good deal more then that on a single executive's pay.

    • Irrelevant??? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by brunes69 (86786)

      $200 is irrelevant to the GDP of Walmart so I guess I should not feel guilty about lifting an iPod either.

      Heck, in fact I guess we now have license to commit theft whenever the market cap of a company goes over a certain threshold. What is that threshold? 10 million? 100 million?

      Please enlighten me when it is OK to steal from a company and when it is not.

      • Re:Irrelevant??? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:43AM (#46813693)

        I'm not justifying the theft, asshat. I'm pointing out that that its such a tiny blip in their expenses that it doesn't justify an across the board price increase.

        For example... lets say I own a sandwich shop. And one day, my father comes to visit my sandwich shop and I give him a free sandwich. That means my shop made less money per sandwich sold then it would have if I had made my father pay for his sandwich.

        Will I now have to increase prices on all my sandwiches to cover this expense?

        Obviously fucking not.

        Thank you for arriving on the same page I was reading from. I am NOT justifying the theft. I am saying rather that Comcast has billions in revenue... 2.4 million lost here or there spread across the whole subscriber base wouldn't add so much as a PENNY to the cost of the average user.

        Not one fucking cent.

        So comcast on that note can blow it directly out their ass. Were they robbed? Yes. Is that bad? Yes. Do I approve of robbery? No. Do I think Comcast is a terrible company that should get ripped apart why wolves? Yes. Will I release those wolves on it to do just that? No. Will I clap and giggle should that happen? Yes.

        Just what is, my bucko.

      • I'll bite.
        let's call it $10.000.00.00
        Hungry? eat the rich.
        if money = speech then theft = poetry

      • by CauseBy (3029989)

        Sure. $100M sounds pretty good. The way I would structure it is:

        1. Corporations pay taxes exactly the same as individuals
        1A. That means the same rates and brackets apply
        1B. That means we either eliminate the Business Expense Deduction, or we make all Living Expenses deductible, so that both corporations and individuals pay gross or net, but corporations don't get to pay net while individuals have to pay gross
        2. The income rate scales up slowly and tops out at 100%, perhaps at an income of something like $10

        • You don't know what that would do...

          It would destroy the corporations outright. They would not be able to operate.

          The economy would collapse.

          The real story is that the taxes you're talking about are the sort that only the middle class really pay. And I agree that is crappy.

          Note that tax systems are set up not to be fair or just or reasonable but to generate money. That is really the only thing that you can take for granted with a tax system is that it will generate revenue.

          As to income tax going up to a 100

          • by CauseBy (3029989)

            It would destroy the corporations outright. They would not be able to operate.

            I have heard that before but I don't think it makes any sense. What exactly would make the corporations collapse? They'd have a different cost structure so they'd have a different price structure. Obviously it would be a shift in where tax dollars come from so there would be rate adjustments. Individuals would find themselves with a lot more money but higher product costs, in exact proportion. Where in that is economic collapse? W

            • First, corporations are double taxed currently.

              They pay taxes as a corporation, then their investors pay taxes on dispensed profits.

              It is ultimately the investors in the company that make the company a viable investor. If you tax the company at a higher rate, then the profit from investing in the company will make corporate investment a bad investment.

              Second, while any cost can be passed on to consumers, I don't think you appreciate that the cost structure would be such a massive shock to the system that it

              • by CauseBy (3029989)

                I've heard before all that you said but I've never found it convincing at all. I'm pretty sure that if human beings manage to pay taxes on gross income without ceasing to exist, then other taxpaying entities can do the same. There has never been a time in the history of humanity when taxing companies caused the companies to die: the companies have a new cost, so they raise their prices; done, it's obvious and happens all the time.

                The people who would 'lose' in this scenario are the rich motherfuckers who to

                • If that is the simplistic depth you're willing to look into on this issue then you're beyond intelligent reason.

                  You are unfortunately guilty of fraud in this case since you entered a discussion where rational discourse was a presupposed feature. Please either leave these boards or preface future discussions with the statement that you are not a rational player.

                  Good day, sir.

                  • by CauseBy (3029989)

                    /sigh/ I've asked so many people to tell me why taxing corporate gross income would kill corporations, nobody can explain it, although everyone assumes it. I'll ask the next person, too, I guess. Most people give it a better shot than you did before giving up.

                    • Excuse me, I did just explain it.

                      What you're not getting is that the profits are taxed TWICE.

                      LISTEN MOTHER FUCKER.

                      TWICE.

                      2

                      TWO

                      TWICE.

                      Once at the corporate level

                      Again at the investor level.

                      Okay, if a corporation makes 1 million dollars in profit and 40-50 percent of that is taken by the various government taxes. That leaves HALF the original profits to be divided amongst the investors.

                      Okay, now upon receiving those profits, each of those investors has those profits taxed again at a rate that could be about 40-5

                    • by CauseBy (3029989)

                      It's not double taxation. It's just not, because the money transfers from one entity to another. If the corporation earns profits and keeps the money in a corporate bank account, it pays only corporate income tax. When money is disburse to investors, then the money changes hands, and a taxable event has occurred.

                      Some people want to pretend that an investor "is" the corporation but that is just rhetorical hand-waving by tax cheats to try to justify paying less. If an investor were the "same" as the corporati

                    • It is though.

                      And if you're going to tell me that it isn't, that's fine.

                      You get to be wrong. The world is full of people that believe stupid things. You apparently are determined to be amongst them.

                      So be it.

                      What we have now is a compromise between people like you that are clueless and people like me that are realists.

                      You want double taxation. I say "fine" but the combined double tax will not be much higher then a single tax.

                      And that is where it stands until you're prepared to pull your head out of your ass.

                      Y

                    • by CauseBy (3029989)

                      Well, I didn't only tell you that it isn't double taxation, I told you why it isn't double taxation. Two times you responded by simply saying it is:

                      "What you're not getting is that the profits are taxed TWICE."
                      "It is though."

                      So I can't be swayed by your argument because you didn't make one. Furthermore, not only do I disagree with you but it's irrelevant. The point we are discussing is whether it would cause corporations to collapse, if we taxed them the same as we tax individuals, especially if we taxed th

                    • No. It is you that refuses to listen.

                      What you're not getting is that if you did that the corporate structure wouldn't work. Your reasons to the contrary ignore that NET you are taking more out of the system then is being taken out now.

                      Think of a business like an organism and the business environment like an ecosystem. You take resources out of either and they will be missed. Your attempt to say its okay because of some classification or word game you're playing is irrelevant.

                      FACT you are taking more out of

  • Small time crooks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bender Unit 22 (216955) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:05AM (#46813595) Journal

    As we know, only small time crooks get jail time.
    Their error was that they didn't operate out of Wall Street.

  • by paiute (550198) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:31AM (#46813659)
    If things continue along their current path, in the not too distant future crimes against Comcast will carry the death penalty.
  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:31AM (#46813661)
  • If they could make more money raising rates, then they would. It's not like a business tries to make the minimumn possible profit. They price at what they think the customers will pay. Someone else taking away their customers does not affect this value.

    But they're not going to get a lot of sympathy if they complain that it's slightly cutting into their billions of dollars of revenue, so they try to get everyone on their side by suggesting the scammers were stealing from the customers.
  • . Their operation purportedly cost Comcast $2.4 million, and Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customersHowever, the allegedly huge financial loss .....

    2.4million is 0.03% of their NET income in 2013. it's ... what, $.01 per customer per month??

    • Same sort of math used by **AA to exaggerate loss due to piracy, while in fact research suggested that piracy actually help propel studios and labels to record profits in recent years.

  • This illustrates the insanity of our society (USA). 57-115 years in jail, and no one other than a legal fiction was harmed at all? Meanwhile a murder gets less than that. It's insanity.
  • Their operation purportedly cost Comcast $2.4 million, and Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customers.

    So any old excuse will do, eh?

    Oh, my, there was a wind storm, we need to raise your rates.

    Boo, due to additional usage during the Olympic season, we need to raise your rates.

    Due to a need to meet targets for executive bonuses, we need to raise your rates.

    I don't believe the rates these companies are tied to market factors any more than I believe anything they say.

  • Can you just imagine the horror and emotional damage Comcast went through for this? Americans must unite and keep electing people into office that will continue to protect and nurture our corporate overlords!
  • by J'raxis (248192) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:25AM (#46814253) Homepage

    In other news, Comcast announced record profits today [boston.com]. First-quarter earnings up thirty percent.

  • Yet another reason that I will never ever give comcast a dime of my money. These scumbags are claiming they must raise rates? They already make record profits.

    • by riis138 (3020505)
      and they provide crap service. The funny thing is, people here in the Midwest think they are getting "fast" internet. Little do they know we are far behind the rest of the world.
  • by koan (80826)

    These guys are heros.

  • by neminem (561346) <`neminem' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @11:32AM (#46815477) Homepage

    When I read the title, I was like, holy crap, someone got sent to jail for tricking Comcast into giving them a lower rate? That's a new low.

    But no, after reading the whole description - while I have absolutely no sympathy for Comcast whatsoever, that definitely sounds like a legitimate crime that deserves jail time, even if the victims of the crime are also scum who deserve getting ripped off.

  • The real crime here is that Comcast is using this to force another rate increase on those of us that are given no other option for an isp.
  • by kenj0418 (230916) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @04:46PM (#46818205)

    Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customers

    And that is how you know you are dealing with a monopoly. If there was actual competition, then it would be hurting only their shareholders as they'd be forced to keep their prices at competitive, market levels.

Vax Vobiscum

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