Samuel T. Johnson, 31, and Daphne Debrosse, 30, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Johnson was ordered held pending trial on grounds that he constituted a flight risk. The press did not name an attorney for the couple.
According to the indictment, Johnson and Debrosse are accused of fraudulently obtaining new cellular devices from Verizon and reselling them. Johnson was allegedly able to hack into existing Verizon accounts and charge the devices to them. He also created fraudulent accounts and charged devices to them, prosecutors said.
Johnson and Debrosse, along with others, purportedly retrieved the devices from various Apple stores and other third-party vendors across the US. The devices were bought in the names of various aliases. The accused would then resell the phones for profit, the indictment alleges.
According to court records, the conspiracy illegally obtained an estimated 2,941 devices worth almost $3.4 million. When investigators executed a search warrant at the apartment Johnson and Debrosse shared in Miami, they allegedly recovered $619,000 in cash, which was seized. Law enforcement also initiated forfeiture action against a 2019 Lamborghini Urus that Johnson had allegedly bought with the money he received from the alleged scheme.
The couple is additionally accused of money laundering for depositing the alleged proceeds into 13 different bank accounts. Between January 2017 and April 2019, they deposited $813,000 into the accounts, prosecutors claim. Johnson reportedly used a portion of the money to pay for travel expenses when he retrieved the cellular devices in various cities in 21 states, records indicate. Some of the compromised accounts and vendors involved were in the Pittsburgh area, which is where the charges were filed.
If convicted, Johnson and Debrosse each face a maximum total sentence of 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. The U.S. Attorney’s Office press release noted that the actual sentence imposed would be based on the seriousness of the alleged offense as well as the defendants’ prior criminal history. The indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
Fraud involving cell phone accounts has been on the rise in recent years. In 2018, the number of victims of fraudulent phone accounts surged 78 percent from the previous year to about 680,000, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. Unlike other types of fraud, cell phone account fraud is hard to detect and can go unnoticed for months.
Anyone accused of committing wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy should immediately seek legal counsel. A good fraud defense attorney can review the evidence and help the accused choose the best course of action to minimize the potential penalties or have the charges dropped.
South Florida Fraud Attorney