Texas man charged with defrauding Cisco Systems, the Neat Company, iRobot Corporation, Amazon.com, and others out of more than $1.9 million in merchandise

 

Date: March 3, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

PHILADELPHIA – Reece A. Line of Pearland, Texas, was charged today by Information with 22 counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, and three counts of tax evasion.

The Information alleges that the defendant perpetrated a scheme to defraud Cisco Systems Inc. ("Cisco"), the Neat Company ("Neat"), iRobot Corporation ("iRobot"), APC by Schneider Electric ("APC"), Amazon.com ("Amazon"), and other companies by engaging in a sophisticated warranty fraud scheme. The charges state that the defendant and his co-schemers obtained serial numbers to products sold or manufactured by Cisco, Neat, iRobot, and APC. They allegedly proceeded to register false domain names, obtain false email addresses, and submit false warranty claims, pretending to own products sold or manufactured by these companies that they claimed were not working. The Information alleges that the defendant provided customer service representatives with descriptions of the non-existent defects that he knew they could not solve by troubleshooting and would require replacement with new products. Cisco, Neat, iRobot, and APC then shipped the replacement products to the defendant and his co-schemers, which they promptly sold via eBay, on Amazon, or through computer resellers.

The Information further alleges that the defendant and his co-schemers defrauded Amazon by using false identities, domain names, email addresses, and mailing addresses to order products that they falsely claimed never arrived or arrived broken, thereby inducing Amazon to repeatedly send replacement products. The Information alleges that the defendant and his co-schemers then sold the products obtained in this manner via eBay.

All told, the defendant and his co-schemers successfully obtained at least $1,950,000 worth of products from the victim companies through their alleged fraud. The Information also alleges that the defendant evaded the payment of any income tax on the income he earned from his fraud for tax years 2014 through 2016 by, among other things, failing to file returns, storing his fraud proceeds in bank accounts and PayPal accounts in the names of co-schemers, storing cash at his residence, paying his personal living expenses with cash, and using false email addresses, false domain names, prepaid gift cards, and false identities to conceal his involvement in the fraud scheme.

"Taxpayers are required to cooperate with the tax system by filing honest and accurate returns and paying their fair share," said Michael Montanez, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation. "The Special Agents of IRS-CI will continue to investigate and bring charges against those who intentionally violate our tax system."

"As alleged, the defendant engaged in a sophisticated fraud scheme that netted almost $2 million worth of products," said U.S. Attorney McSwain. "Retail fraud, whether in brick-and-mortar stores or online, is a serious crime that must be punished and deterred. I would like to thank both the FBI and the IRS for their dedication and partnership in this matter."

The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 825 years' incarceration, a five-year period of supervised release, and a fine of $8,250,000.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.

An Indictment, Information, or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.