A Cape Coral woman was sentenced to two years and nine months in federal prison for defrauding elderly people with phony tech support.
Nicole Sprague, 38, was found guilty of committing mail fraud and conspiring to commit mail fraud. As part of her sentence, the court also ordered restitution to the identified victims in the amount of $297,900, and entered an order of forfeiture in the amount of $250,000, representing the proceeds of the fraud. Sprague pleaded guilty on May 24.
According to court documents, Sprague participated in a tech support scam that operated from around January 2018 through April 2019, which defrauded numerous elderly victims. The conspirators, some of whom were located overseas, falsely represented themselves as online computer tech support personnel to obtain money from elderly victims who believed that they were paying for necessary computer repairs or installing computer security software.
After the victim agreed to make payment to the telemarketer for purported tech support, access to the victim’s computer occurred while the victim believed that a legitimate service had been received. While conspirators were remotely connected to each victim’s computer, the conspirators were able to access each victim’s personal information, including access to the victim’s financial accounts.
The conspirators then contacted each victim to offer supposed refunds to the victims for the purchase of the original service. The telemarketers instructed each victim to allow remote access to the computer and then instructed the victim to log into their online banking platform to allow for a direct deposit of the refund.
Upon having access to the victim’s computer, the telemarketer made it appear that a deposit had been made into the victim’s account and would claim to have accidentally deposited large amounts of money into the victim’s account. Conspirators then instructed the victims to return the false overpayment in the form of cash or cashier’s checks via U.S. mail and other parcel delivery services to Sprague.
During her participation in the scheme, Sprague opened various bank accounts in which she was the sole signor on each account. She also opened several post office boxes at authorized depositories in Cape Coral.
Sprague routinely deposited the victims’ funds into her bank accounts before she gave the proceeds to other members of the conspiracy. Sprague often initiated international wire transfers, paid for with victims’ funds, to her co-conspirators. She retained a portion of the fraud proceeds to use for her own personal benefit. Sprague received at least $250,000 in proceeds from the fraud.
After the victims conducted cash withdrawals or purchased cashier’s checks as form of repayment to the purported technology support company and mailed the money to Sprague, the victims discovered that the refund and purported overpayment were false.
During the remote access, the telemarketer often transferred monies from the victim’s savings account or line of credit to the victim’s checking account to give the fraudulent appearance that the victim’s checking account was credited for the refund and purported overpayment.