FEDS: Florida Man Operated Telephone ‘Cramming’ Scheme From Prison; Willoughby Farr Indicted; Already Faces $34.5 Million Civil Judgment
An inmate operated a collect-call “cramming” scheme from a Florida state prison by hiding his ownership of three firms, federal prosecutors said.
Willoughby Farr, 46, of West Palm Beach, has been indicted on six counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 160 years, if convicted on all counts.
Farr already faces a $34.5 million judgment in a civil case filed by the FTC. Customers were billed for calls they never placed, and many callers paid the charges because information about the calls was buried on the last page of their telephone bills.
â€œThis type of scheme steals from hundreds of thousands of
consumers who inadvertently pay toll charges that appear on their phone bills without authorization,â€ said Assistant Attorney General Tony West. â€œWe will not hesitate to prosecute financial crimes of this nature, but this case stresses the need for consumers to carefully review their telephone bills to make sure fraudulent charges are not included.â€
It has been a busy day for West. Earlier today, he participated in an FTC news conference announcing a crackdown on employment and work-at-home fraud.
The indictment in the cramming case against Farr was unsealed today.
Prosecutors said he used three West Palm Beach firms — Nationwide Connections Inc., Access One Communications Inc. and Connect One Communications — to fleece customers.
In the 2006 FTC case, investigators said Farr billed for calls that never occurred, including “phony collect calls” and calls to telephone lines dedicated to modems and fax machines, and to homes and businesses where no one was present.”
The calls typically cost unknowing customers “between five and eight dollars each,” the FTC said.