According to information revealed by public defender Andrew Birge, a US Department of Justice representative for western Michigan, a scammer is being charged with defraud Amazon and make more than $1.5 million through a sophisticated book resale scheme. The defendant, Geoffrey Mark Hays Talsma, is 36 years old and allegedly took advantage of the Textbook Rentals service, which is only available in the US and allows the user to rent works for a predetermined period of time.
Between January 2016 and March of this year, Geoffrey — along with three other scammers who were later “recruited” to participate in the fraud — would have used a series of fake accounts, with different emails and phone numbers, to overcome the rental limit of 15 simultaneous books established by Amazon. From there, the gang took hold of academic titles with high market value, such as “Compensation” by Jerry Newman, Barry Gerhart and George Milkovich, whose price is around US$ 172.
To carry out the lease, the criminals would have employed prepaid credit cards and Amazon gift cards, so that, when the platform tried to automatically charge for the non-returned works, the payment method was denied due to lack of sufficient balance. Meanwhile, Geoffrey and his troupe resold books purchased by word of mouth or regional used book stores. It is estimated that the quartet has stolen 14 thousand titles that, together, are worth no less than US$ 1.5 million.
“On many occasions, according to the allegations, Talsma further defrauded Amazon by seeking and crediting his account, claiming that he did not receive the textbooks or that he received other items I couldn’t return it,” explains Andrew. “If convicted, Talsma faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for each of the crimes of mail and wire transfer fraud; 10 years for interstate transport of stolen goods and 5 years for making false statements to the FBI”, adds the defender.
In addition to the Kalamazoo City FBI office, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) for the city of Grand Rapids — both Michigan — is participating in the investigation. The case will be heard by local judge Ronald M. Stella.