Data Centre

Fella faked Cisco, Microsoft gear death – then sold replacement kit for millions, say Feds

'Phony photos', legit serial numbers land chap in court

By Thomas Claburn in San Francisco

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A US bloke allegedly defrauded Cisco and Microsoft by faking problems with computing and networking gear he didn't own to trick the tech giants into sending him replacements.

The suspected crook then sold the gear online and through New Jersey-based resellers for millions of dollars, prosecutors claim.

Justin David May, 28, of Wilmington, Delaware, was indicted on Friday for mail fraud, money laundering, interstate transport of goods obtained by fraud, and tax evasion, according to paperwork filed in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, court.

From August through November last year, May, on his own and in conjunction with undisclosed "co-schemers," obtained the product serial numbers for Cisco and Microsoft hardware, and then set up a series of websites, paid for with Bitcoin to conceal domain registrations, to make the customer email addresses they created look more credible, it is claimed.

A spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declined to provide details about how the product serial numbers were obtained.

But armed with those numbers, May and his associates are alleged to have submitted a series of support requests for problems that they "knew would prevent the [Cisco support] engineers from solving the supposed problems through troubleshooting and would necessarily require the replacement of the supposedly faulty computer hardware."

Surface damage

They conducted a similar scam with Microsoft support personnel, the indictment stated, using altered photographs of the devices they didn't own to make their equipment return requests more convincing.

May and pals are said to have obtained 169 Cisco switches and routers worth an estimated $2,344,860, and 139 Microsoft Surface devices worth about $393,000.

The indictment indicated the total value of the gear sought, not all of which was obtained, amounted to about $4,600,000.

May was supposed to return the broken gear for which he'd received replacements, but having never possessed the equipment in the first place, he ignored the companies' entreaties to send back the faulty products.

The scammed kit was sold through eBay and New Jersey-based equipment resellers Softnetworks LLC and Computechsale LLC, according to the court filing.

With part of his proceeds, May is said to have purchased a 2017 BMW coupe for $62,246.

If convicted, May could spend the next millennium in jail. He faces a theoretical maximum sentence of 1,029 years in prison, plus five years of supervised release, a fine of more than $7 million and about $2.5 million in restitution.

Based on likely advisory sentencing guidelines, however, prospective jail time should be closer to 11 to 14 years.

Scammers appear to find enterprise customer support operations appealing. Mikhail Oleg Lev, 41, of Encino, California, was charged last week with trying to fraudulently obtain two Dell PowerEdge R940 servers worth more than $100,000 as replacements for supposedly damaged shipments he didn't possess.

According to the Hartford Courant, he's believed to be involved in the theft of about $7m worth of Dell gear. ®

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