By Jimmy Isaac
Longview Police Departmant’s Cybercrimes Unit played a key role in the investigation that led to lengthy prison sentence for at least three North Texas men convicted in a more than $20 million conspiracy.
Chief U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater called the case “a massive, complicated, multi-year scheme to defraud a large number of victims,” according to North Texas e-News online. On May 25, he sentenced 32-year-old Nathan Todd Shafer, of Irving, to 40 years in prison plus restitution of $17.6 million and forfeiture of about $3 million in metal certificates and about $2 million more in cash and computer equipment. Shafer was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, one count of fraud and related activity in connection with electronic mail, one count of obstruction through destruction of evidence and one count of false registration of a domain name. Fitzwater’s court also found that Simpson committed perjury during his testimony.
Also sentenced were Matthew Norman Simpson, 26, of Red Oak, to nine years in federal prison; and Michael Blaine Faulkner, of Southlake, to 30 years in prison.
According to documents filed in the case, Faulkner and his wife fled to Mexico in 2009 after they learned of the FBI’s investigation into their activities, according to ntxe-news.com. They lived in Mexico under assumed names until January 2010 when they were arrested and returned to the U.S. to face charges.
During trial, the government presented evidence that Simpson, Shafer and their coconspirators conspired to defraud various telecommunications companies including AT&T, Verizon, XO Communications, Excel Communications, Waymark Communications, Bandwidth.com, and CommPartners; the lessors of properties at 2020 Live Oak, 2323 Bryan Street and 1950 Stemmons Freeway, in Dallas; leasing companies and creditors, including Wells Fargo and AT&T Capital Services; credit reporting agencies; and various other service providers, such as power companies, insurance companies, air-conditioning companies, web site developers and others for goods and services amounting to more than $20 million.
The conspirators also made false representations to obtain goods, such as computers and telecommunications equipment and infrastructure, to include racks to hold computer equipment, generators to provide power for the equipment, and office space to install the equipment, as well as services related to the operation and use of computers and telecommunications. The conspirators created, purchased and used shell companies to hide the true identity of the owners or operators of the companies, or the relationships between the companies. The conspirators paid persons including homeless persons for the use of their identities to “act” as the officers, directors or managers of the shell companies. They also used P.O. Boxes, commercial remailer services, shell offices, apartments or other physical locations to hide owners’ or operators’ identities or the relationships between the companies. They assumed other identities to hide true ownership of the shell companies and made materially false representations to their victims, by mail, fax, telephone, email or other communications, to obtain goods and services from them.
The case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance provided by the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Secretary of State, the Dallas Police Department, the Southlake Police Department, Dallas Sheriff’s Office, Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, the Duncanville Police Department, the Longview Police Department, the New Orleans Police Department, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communication Commission and various state public utility commissions.