The former CEO of an Australian mobile software company has been sentenced to more than nine years in prison for his role in a massive horoscope text-messaging fraud that took 50 million from thousands of cell phone users in the United States.
Michael Pierce, 52, was accused of assisting in the development of software that would unknowingly auto-subscribe cell-phone subscribers to premium text-messaging services that they did not actually sign up for, prosecutors say.
Investigators say Pierce’s company, Bulrower, Tatto Inc. Developed the software for a premium text-messaging company called, which fraudulently signed customers up from a list provided by Mobile Messenger, a US company that added charges to an individual’s mobile bill.
Between 2011 and 2013, prosecutors say Tattoo billed thousands of phone subscribers মাসে 9.99 per month for unsolicited text message horoscopes and jokes. Most subscribers will delete messages as spam.
The charge will continue until the customer notices their bill and unsubscribes from the service. Prosecutors say attempts to challenge previous allegations have often proved difficult. In all, the scheme took $ 50 million in fraud charges, of which $ 10 million went to Pierce, prosecutors said.
“Michael Pierce played a key role in an international consumer-fraud conspiracy that deceived tens of thousands of millions of mobile phone subscribers,” said Damien Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Pierce was arrested in Australia in 2018 and extradited to the United States. He pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As part of his application agreement, Pierce was ordered to pay back $ 10.2 million and confiscate three properties owned by him in Australia. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to 109 months in federal prison.
In the court filing, Pierce – who volunteered as a firefighter in Australia – argued that he played only a minor role in the scheme and did not use the money he received to finance a luxurious life. A message left with his attorney was not immediately returned.
Prosecutors say nine more people have pleaded guilty in the case. Two alleged ringleaders, Darcy Wade and Fraser Thompson, who ran Mobile Messenger, were convicted in a 2017 trial. Wade is serving 10 years in prison and Thompson is serving five years.