WORCESTER — A Massachusetts man was sentenced in federal court today on wire and mail fraud charges for a scheme in which he advertised Superbowl tickets over the Internet, collected approximately $255,000 from customers, and then never provided either the tickets or refunds.
United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Peter Zegarac, Postal Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in New England, announced that MICHAEL R. DEPPE, age 20, of 59 Bennett Street, Hudson, Massachusetts, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV, to 6 years and 6 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. DEPPE was also ordered to pay a $12,500 fine as well as $520,000 in restitution to his victims. The Court also ordered DEPPE to forfeit $370,000, including the $11,000 in cash that was found in his residence at the time of his arrest. Following a seven-day trial, on May 2, 2006, a jury convicted DEPPE of 3 counts of Wire Fraud and 2 counts of Mail Fraud.
DEPPE had previously pleaded guilty to the portion of a Superseding Indictment charging him with mail and wire fraud, stemming from an earlier part of his fraud scheme, in which he received approximately $115,000 in payments for the purported sale of items such as Rolex watches but never provided the items or refunded the money. Today’s sentence reflects both DEPPE’s guilty plea and his trial conviction.
Evidence presented at trial proved that DEPPE’s Superbowl ticket scam began approximately two weeks before the February 6, 2005 Superbowl, when DEPPE suggested to his business partner, William Englehart, that they sell Superbowl tickets over on-line auction site eBay. DEPPE falsely told Englehart that he had a contact at a reputable ticket agency in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and that this person was willing to let him sell Superbowl tickets on commission.
Through eBay advertisements that he wrote and phone calls he had with customers, DEPPE persuaded approximately 41 customers to pay a total of approximately $255,460 for Super Bowl tickets that he falsely promised to obtain. The money for these purchases went initially to Englehart, who then withdrew it from his bank account and gave it to DEPPE in cash, in several installments. DEPPE had falsely told Englehart that his contact at the ticket agency would only deal with him and would only take cash. Englehart was not charged with a crime.
The week before the 2005 Superbowl, DEPPE falsely promised customers several times that the tickets would be sent by overnight mail to them, however the customers never received them. Each time, DEPPE later provided a false excuse. He then falsely promised to provide the tickets personally to customers if they would meet him at the Orlando, Florida airport on Thursday, February 3, 2005, three days before the game. But when several customers tracked him down at the airport, he had no tickets. DEPPE never provided the Superbowl ticket customers with the tickets for which they paid, and he never refunded their money.
The charges to which DEPPE had previously pleaded guilty relate to the portion of the scheme in which he scammed a number of people by contacting them via email claiming he had merchandise to sell, primarily electronic equipment and Rolex watches. Although specifics of each scam varied, DEPPE often requested his customers to pay him by wire-transferring money to his bank account.
To persuade the merchandise customers that the sales were legitimate, DEPPE gave the customers a U.S. Postal Service tracking number for the packages that he claimed were being shipped to them with their merchandise. In some cases, DEPPE even allowed customers to wait before wiring the purchase money to him until they could confirm through the Postal Service that a package was on its way to their zip code. It was not possible, however, for the customers to tell from the Postal Service tracking website to what specific address the package was being sent.
DEPPE did often send a package to the customer’s zip code but these packages were addressed incorrectly and were filled with worthless newspapers or sports trading cards instead of the merchandise he had sold them. DEPPE pleaded guilty to intentionally sending the packages to incorrect addresses to generate the necessary Postal Service tracking number while avoiding having the worthless packages delivered to the customers, which would have immediately alerted them to the fraud.
From March 2003 through December 2004, DEPPE defrauded approximately 27 people of approximately $115,000 in total in this manner. DEPPE took most of the fraud proceeds out of his bank accounts in cash and spent the rest on personal expenses.
U.S. Attorney Sullivan would like to especially thank the Office of Worcester County District Attorney John Conte for referring the case for federal prosecution. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Bookbinder and Seth Berman, in Sullivan’s Computer Crimes Unit.