(Editor's note: Every once in a while, we are presented with a story which, though it has no direct local connection, we feel would be of significant interest to our readers. This is such a story.)
BURLINGTON – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Burlington Chief of Police Michael Kent have announced that Robert O’Neil, 70 of Woburn, Michael MacMillan, 49 of Reading and Keith Ryan, 44, now a resident of Connecticut, were arraigned this week in Middlesex Superior Court in connection with running a large scale, multi-year scam to defraud victims by promising the sale of an overstock of large screen deluxe televisions, at a deep discount. The televisions were never delivered. In total the defendants allegedly grossed more than $400,000 between 2008 and 2016. Since this investigation began many of the lowest rung associates involved in the scheme have been arrested and convicted in connection with this scheme.
Clerk Magistrate Matthew Day ordered the release of the defendants on personal recognizance and that Robert O’Neil and Brian MacMillan wear GPS monitoring devices and abide by a curfew. Ryan is already under court supervision in Connecticut. The next court date in this case is November 6, 2017.
In 2015 Burlington Police Department and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office began a collaborative investigation to identify the architects of this apparent long running scheme. From 2000 to 2016, the three defendants were allegedly running a continuing scam targeting small businesses by promising to sell a number of large, flat-screen TVs that, due to an overstock of appliances were supposedly being sold privately to special customers at various Sears and Best Buy stores. As part of this scam, the defendants allegedly cold-called small business owners whom they identified through searching the telephone yellow pages and on-line Internet data bases. The first caller would allegedly represent himself as the usual UPS delivery person for that business owner. He would go on to represent that he had a brother, usually named “Henry Collins,” who supposedly was a long time employee of either Sears or Best Buy and had revealed that the store had an overstock of the deluxe televisions that they had to dispose of. The caller allegedly promised deep discounts but stated that the sales had to be completed in cash. If the victim expressed interest, he would be put in contact with “Henry,” who would confirm the sale and close the deal.
The defendants allegedly recruited and used other conspirators – “runners” – to act as store employees who would actually meet the victims. Once “Henry” and the victim had struck an agreement, the victim would be directed to drive to the store parking lot where they would be met by a “runner” who would be wearing a Best Buy or Sears store identification tag, pretending to be a store employee. The victim would hand over the cash payment to the runner, be given a false receipt for the purchase, and told to move their cars to the loading dock while the pretend-employee went inside to bring out the televisions. The runner would enter the store with the cash, leave through another exit and disappear. No televisions were delivered.
“By collaborating with law enforcement we have been able to make many arrests over the years as part of this investigation. This marks the conclusion of a lengthy investigation to identify not just the individuals executing this scam on the ground but also the individuals who were allegedly organizing and overseeing this scheme from the top,” said District Attorney Marian Ryan.
“This week’s arraignment was the result of a complicated investigation. I applaud the hard work of the Burlington Detective Bureau in cooperation with the District Attorney’s Office on this case,” said Chief Kent.
The scam was executed at Sears and Best Buy retail department stores located predominantly in regional malls in Massachusetts, including the South Shore Mall, the Burlington Mall, Cambridgeside Mall, the Natick Mall, the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, the North Shore Mall in Peabody, the Auburn Mall, the Square One Mall in Saugus, as well as in the Pheasant Lane and Rockingham Malls in New Hampshire, and other malls in Maine, New Jersey and New York. There were no actual sales of overstock televisions and all transactions were conducted with cash in the parking lot, never in the stores.
All defendants were charged with multiple counts of larceny and also with conspiracy to commit larceny.
The investigation was conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Burlington Police, with assistance and cooperation from police departments throughout the Commonwealth and neighboring states that made arrests of the low-level runners throughout the years and which shared evidence that became part of the overall case.
These charges are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The prosecutors assigned to the case are Assistant District Attorneys Doug Cannon and Cyrus Chung.
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