I’m a proud Maryland native but after reading a recent press release of a Bethesda, Maryland resident’s pay phone fraud scheme, I can’t help but feel embarrassed that this took place so close to my old home. This must be what people from New Jersey feel like every week after an airing of The Jersey Shore.
Bethesda resident, Nicolas Kantartzis, pleaded guilty today to scamming victims of payments through pay phones, totaling up to $4 million over the past six years.
I spend day after day reading about what new scams are hitting the press and I have to say, this one was a novel idea. Dishonest and idiotic; but different.
You see, Kantartzis owned and operated his company, Federal Telephone Corporation Inc. (FTCI), and controlled about 165 pay phones scattered across Washington D.C., and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland. Kantartzis then programmed his phones to dial toll-free numbers from his pay phones; completed calls from the toll-free numbers earned him $0.494 each. This doesn’t sound like much but if you add up all of the calls between January 2005 until July 2011 he brought in about $4 million and targeted between 200 and 250 victims. Some of his victims include: the U.S. General Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the computer company Dell, D.C.’s Homeless Shelter Hotline and various financial institutions and airlines.
Kantartzis programmed his payphones to call toll-free numbers in a repeating pattern, consisting of blocks of 10 calls within three minutes followed by five hours of no toll-free calls. These calls typically lasted only a few seconds. For example, in January 2008 Kantartzis programmed his payphone located at Super Dollar on Georgia Avenue in Washington, D.C. to make 2,669 outgoing calls, of which 1,688 (63%) were to toll-free numbers. Of the 1,688 toll-free calls, 93% lasted 10 seconds or less. Surveillance at some of the Kantartzis’ programmed phones showed that no user was physically placing a call at the payphone at the time the calls were made and in fact, calls were made after the business was closed and locked. – Source.
In his plea Kantartzis agreed to forfeit all of the pay phones owned by him and his company, FTCI, $2,886,158 he had in investment and bank accounts and the future funds coming his way from this scheme. Oh, he also faces a potential 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine. Dishonest and idiotic; but different.
On a side note… pay phones still exist?
If you have been scammed and would like to file a scam report, please click here.