US judge sentences men for $1.5 million Apple gift card scam

A US judge has sentenced two men for operating an Apple gift card scam that earned them more than $1.5 million.

On Monday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said Syed Ali and Jason Almighty, 29 and 27 respectively, had been convicted after admitting to the scam in 2019.

Both pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Ali was sentenced in October 2021 by Texas US District Judge David Godbey, and Almighty has now joined his co-conspirator, having been sentenced by the same judge this week.

Often, gift card scams are associated with fake romance scams and cold calling, in which the criminals pretend to be an antivirus vendor or a tax organization. These scammers demand payment in gift cards purchased from Apple, Google, or other vendors.

In this case, however, Almighty physically stole numerous point-of-sale (PoS) devices from an Apple store in Texas. He then sat outside, connected to the store’s Wi-Fi network, and stole store credits before loading them onto virtual gift cards.

The gift cards were loaded onto Apple Passbook, now known as Apple Wallet. The software can be used to store and share gift cards, boarding passes, tickets and vouchers.

After Almighty loaded the gift cards, he then generated a QR code for the value of the card and sent screenshots of the QR codes to Ali. Along with an unnamed co-conspirator, Ali then used the QR codes to buy Apple products from stores in New York.

US prosecutors believe the pair fraudulently obtained gift cards worth more than $1.5 million.

Ali was sentenced to 37 months (3 years) and Almighty will serve 60 months (5 years) behind bars. Almighty was also ordered to pay the iPad and iPhone maker $1.26 million in damages.

“If these defendants thought their million-dollar fraud would go unnoticed simply because they were targeting a trillion-dollar company, they were seriously mistaken,” U.S. attorney Chad Meacham said. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud against any business, whether multinational or family-owned. We are grateful to our partners at the FBI for their work on this case.”

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