Fella gets 2.5 years in the clink for coughing up cell numbers in $50m junk text message scam

And has to cough up $350,000 in ill-gotten gains

A bloke armed with a fistful of cellphone numbers has been sent down for 30 months for his role in a scam that fleeced folks out of $50m in bogus monthly charges.

Christopher Goff was sentenced by a US federal district court in Manhattan after being found guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He will also have to forfeit $352,799.56.

Goff provided cellphone numbers of US residents to Lin Miao, the CEO of Tatto, a business that sent premium-rate texts to people. Miao used software to generate a list of faked confirmation texts from those numbers, automatically opting them into Tatto's expensive SMS subscriptions. These services would be things like horoscopes or celebrity news that would arrive regularly, and end up on people's monthly bills.

In other words, Miao took people's numbers, automatically signed them up for expensive monthly garbage texts without permission, and produced faked opt-in confirmation messages in an attempt to prove to telcos it was operating all above board.

In order to get the numbers for the hustle, Miao enlisted Goff, who was working as an account manager for Mobile Messenger, a mobile marketing aggregator company that acts as a middleman between phone carriers and content providers. Goff pulled customer lists from his company's database, and handed them over to Miao so he could cram premium services, and charges, into folks' phones and bills.

As a result, prosecutors say, between 2011 and 2013, Americans were fed $50m in bogus charges to their phones, and Goff himself took home a $350,000 cut of the spoils, disguised as consulting fees from Tatto. When the scheme was found out and dismantled by the cops, Goff would be one of ten people charged.

"Christopher Goff conspired with others in an auto-subscribing scam that stole $50 million from unwitting consumers," said Geoffrey Berman, Manhattan US Attorney General, late last week.

"In return for lists of mobile phone users to victimize, Goff netted more than $350,000 in short-term gain – and a substantial term in prison."

The DoJ said Goff is one of eight people, including Miao, to plead guilty in the case. Two others were found guilty after taking their cases to trial. ®

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