LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that it has obtained temporary restraining orders against a Las Vegas man, four other suspects and 10 associated companies in order to halt an ongoing fraud scheme allegedly targeting consumers and banks.
According to a media release, the fraud network “steals money from consumers and uses deceptive tactics to conceal illicit activity from financial institutions, thereby allowing that illicit activity to continue.” A civil complaint filed by the United States, which was unsealed on December 12, sought a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and other equitable relief to order five individuals and 10 associated companies from continuing to engage in bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit these offenses.
“This case marks a significant step in halting fraud schemes that reap financial gain by scamming consumers and making misrepresentations to financial institutions,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. “It also sends a clear signal that we have used, and will continue to use, all means at our disposal to protect citizens from such schemes to defraud.”
Invoking the Anti-Fraud Injunction Statute, the United States’ complaint alleges that defendants Aric Gastwirth of Las Vegas,Thomas Eide of South Lake Tahoe, California, Travis Smith of Dallas, Stephen Christopher of Poway, California and Bryan Bass, a resident of India, through various business entities that they owned and operated, processed payments for clients that made unauthorized charges to consumers’ accounts and engaged in a variety of other illegal activities, including technical support scams.
The defendants are alleged to have helped their clients gain access to the banking system by creating sham entities, recruiting straw owners for these sham entities, and outfitting these sham entities with fake addresses, websites, and phone numbers. The sham entities then applied for merchant accounts to process payments for the fraud scheme’s clients, ultimately disguising the clients’ true activities.
To further conceal the fraud, the defendants used sham microtransactions to reduce the number of chargebacks (transactions that are refused or reversed by the account holder’s bank) and evade detection from banks.
After the government filed its case, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California entered a temporary restraining order prohibiting defendants from continuing to operate the scheme and freezing assets. The District Court also granted the United States’ request for the appointment of a receiver to stop defendants from dissipating assets obtained through the alleged fraud scheme.
A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for January 11, 2024 before U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley.
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