Seven Florida men defrauded 40,000 people of $25 million, according to federal charges filed in U.S. District Court in Illinois.
The men worked at a technical support company in Florida that purchased pop-up ads that froze people’s computers when they were online, falsely informing them that they had viruses or malware, the charges allege. To unlock their computers, users actually only needed to restart them, according to the charges.
The pop-up ad displayed a toll-free number that connected people with the Florida company that would then sell a $250 computer “tune-up” or a $400 anti-virus protection software.
The scam worked in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and several countries, according to the charges. At least 57 people who fell for the scam live in the Southern District of Illinois, according to a press release.
All seven men were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
▪ Joseph Ralph Aievoli IV, 25, of Boynton Beach, Fla.
▪ Andrew Douglas Broad, 26, of Boynton Beach, Fla.
▪ Ryan Stocker Carr, 23, of Boynton Beach, Fla.
▪ Joshua Dennis Cortez, 37, of Lake Worth, Fla.
▪ Nicholas James Davidson, 25, of Boynton Beach, Fla.
▪ Patrick M. Dougherty, 35, of Boynton Beach, Fla.
▪ Anthony Vincent Ludena, 29, of Boca Raton, Fla.
The maximum penalty is 30 years of imprisonment, after which the defendants could also serve up to five years of supervised release, the charges state. They can also be fined up to $250,000 and be ordered to pay restitution to the victims.
Two men already pleaded guilty, according to the charges. Another four entered pleas of not guilty. The arraignment for the seventh person was scheduled for June 12.
The charges were part of an investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service.